JUPITER, Fla. • It's been three months since Mike Matheny took over as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, and while he's filled those days with ample work -- piecing together a staff, learning an organization, re-watching the 2011 season -- it's not like the days have sped by.
"It was like a kid whose parents put the Christmas gifts out in September," he described this morning.
Matheny spoke to the assembled media this morning at Roger Dean Stadium for the first time at spring training. He covered questions about the lineup, the bullpen, his relationship with pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, and, most of all, just how his first spring training as manager might differ from Tony La Russa's springs.
La Russa and his staff prided themselves on putting together perpetual motion. One day a few springs ago, La Russa happened upon two veteran players sitting on a bench. The veterans were in their first spring with the Cardinals, and La Russa stood in front of them, looking down while workouts happened on every field around them.
"What have I done wrong?" La Russa asked.
Perplexed, the veterans shook their heads.
"Clearly I've done something wrong with the scheduling," the manager said, "if you have time to sit there."
La Russa's point was that players shouldn't have down time. They can take rests. They can change shirts. They can grab water. But he wanted them to motor from workout to drill to drill to drill to done to home -- like clockwork. He felt it was important to have a schedule that kept players hopping because it kept them engaged, maintained their focus and got them done quickly.
Matheny said he plans to adopt that same approach.
"It's been a very efficient camp," he said. "There's no standing around. We get in, get our work done and get them out of here."
That doesn't mean he's going to Xerox La Russa's plans.
"Maybe inside there are going to be (changes)," Matheny said this morning. "I do believe in a lot of instruction and you teach to the guy at the lowest level. You start at zero. We've got a teenager (Tyrell Jenkins) in here for goodness sakes. So I think we start at the beginning. We talk about the fundamentals. I think it's also healthy for guys who are coming over from different organizations to see what the Cardinals do. We do it a different way, and this is our level of expectation.
"So there will be more chalk talk inside," Matheny concluded. "There's going to be some more instruction that goes on there and then comes out here and expects to be put into play. In general you don't really mess with something that has been effective."
Matheny went on to say how one of the big takeaways from a La Russa camp was how the pitching staff arrived at the season healthy and in good shape to immediately compete. That, of course, had a lot to do with the schedule that former pitching Dave Duncan set for his arms each spring. Matheny said he and Lilliquist spoke recently with Duncan -- "We had long conversations," the manager said -- about how the veteran pitching coach would map out the spring for individual pitchers and their individual roles.
The readiness of the pitching staff will have a lot to do with the composition of the roster, Matheny explained.
Asked this morning if he saw a roster with 13 pitchers or 12, Matheny said so much will depend on where the individual pitchers are as far as strength and health. He mentioned concern about the workload that Chris Carpenter had in 2011 and added that Adam Wainwright will be only another month or so removed from Tommy John surgery. Their availability will be monitored early in spring before the team commits to the makeup of the pitching staff. That might require the team to take an extra pitcher into April as protection.
"If there are (concerns) in that regard and guys aren't exactly where they might want to be, you will be looking for some protection," Matheny said.
As Matheny spoke to the media several of those pitchers played catch in left field on Field 1.
This morning's work on the field is still unofficial. Pitchers and catchers are only required to report today. They can take care of that with a phone call -- no visit to the clubhouse is necessary. Matheny said he's heard from all of the players and there are not expecting any late arrivals. He added that most of the position players are expected to take part in workouts before their official report day on Feb. 23.
The first official workout for pitchers and catchers will be Sunday on the back fields at Roger Dean Stadium. The practices are open to the public.
More from Matheny throughout the day here at StlToday.com.