JUPITER, Fla. • Former manager Tony La Russa was at the Cardinals’ complex Thursday, the day it was announced that the 2014 option had been picked up on the contract of his successor, Mike Matheny, and that general manager John Mozeliak’s contract had been extended three years through 2016.
Addressing both situations, La Russa said, “I think it’s well-deserved, an outstanding move.”
La Russa was in the company of Major League Baseball senior vice president Peter Woodfork and umpiring supervisor Ed Rapuano as they tour camps to instruct teams on rules and rules changes. One rule that will be changed this year is that there will be no fake throws to third base available to pitchers who, on managers’ instructions, would use that deke and then try to pick a runner off first base.
That play now will be a balk and, ironically, was one of La Russa’s favorite moves.
La Russa said, “I’m a defensive guy and (the move) had a strong defensive influence.
“They would say, ‘Ah, it never works,’ but the fact is that the (manager) in the other dugout did not steal second base at times, worried about that play.
“Now, it’s a good move. There will be extra stolen bases because of this.”
La Russa turned to former Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin, now in the Cardinals’ front office, smiled and said, “You were the best at that — because every time you pitched, there were runners at first and third.”
This is La Russa’s second year working with the commissioner’s office following his retirement from managing after the Cardinals won the 2011 World Series. He declined to say whether he had been offered a front-office position to his liking but he unequivocally stated he would never manage again.
“No. No. That baton has been passed,” said La Russa, 68. “I’m not going to manage anymore.
“I don’t miss the dugout. Every coach and manager will tell you that you suffer the losses more than you enjoy the wins. That is universally true unless you’re a coach or manager that doesn’t have a clue.
“Therefore, I’ve suffered more than I’ve enjoyed it. You can’t put the losses away and the wins are gone.”
This doesn’t mean that La Russa, third on the all-time wins list, doesn’t still strategize.
“Every game I’ve gone to I’ve managed,” he joked. “I second-guess everybody I see. I’m actively managing as a second-guesser and as a fan.”
Among his duties this year, La Russa will help administrate the World Baseball Classic pairings in Arizona, Miami and San Francisco next month and observe big-league games to see where an expansion of instant replay would be needed. He is on the commissioner’s instant replay committee.
RAINY DAY THOUGHTS
Constant rain in the morning forced the Cardinals to do all their activities in the indoor batting cage area Thursday. There are two mounds there so the 14 scheduled throwers got their work in, for the most part, said pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.
Lilliquist said that there was one more scheduled bullpen session involving 14 pitchers today and then five to seven pitchers a day will throw batting practice beginning Saturday.
The Cardinals’ first exhibition game will be a week from Saturday against Miami and Lilliquist said the first two games — against the Marlins and Boston — would be started by young pitchers, which could mean Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Seth Maness. Veteran rotation starters will begin taking their turns in the third game, said Lilliquist.
ISRINGHAUSEN TO COACH
Former Cardinals relief ace Jason Isringhausen, who pitched last season with the Los Angeles Angels and has 300 career saves, has signed on as a volunteer pitching coach at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. The 40-year-old Isringhausen, who played his high school ball at Piasa Southwestern and college ball at Lewis and Clark Community College, was a Cardinal from 2002-08 and is the franchise leader in saves at 217. The SIUE job gives Isringhausen a chance to work out while pursuing opportunities with a major-league squad, according to his agent, Paul Kuo..
Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay arrived in camp, bedecked in the green and orange colors of the University of Miami, replete with Air Jordan shoes and “U” hat. Jay is enjoying the basketball exploits of his alma mater (ranked No. 3) and said, “I’ve been saying it for a long time but nobody would believe me. I’m a basketball visionary.”
Jay, who led the club in stolen bases last year with 19, many when he moved to the leadoff slot, had a lengthy chat in the lunch room with Matheny and said afterward he was looking forward to hitting first, second, eighth or wherever Matheny wanted him. “We’ve got time to sort that out,” said Jay.
Also, Jay, generally quiet, said he was looking forward to being more of a team leader. “There comes a point where you’ve got to speak what you stand for, especially if you have the right intentions,” he said. “We all have the same intentions — the bottom line is to win.
“You can say one thing and do another thing. But if you’re going to talk the talk, you’d better walk the walk.”
Derrick Goold contributed to this report.