Rosenthal muscles way into competition

2013-02-26T09:15:00Z 2013-05-30T17:03:57Z Rosenthal muscles way into competitionBY JOE STRAUSS •

JUPITER, Fla. • Trevor Rosenthal was big in October.

FYI, he’s bigger now.

A guy who seemingly has everything — youth, a craving to learn and, of course, triple-digit heat — left the National League championship series wanting more. The Cardinals’ breakthrough postseason performer, Rosenthal wanted to add to his credentials.

He did so by getting big — or bigger, at least.

For much of the winter the 22-year-old hung with Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals’ resident Cy Young Award winner and pitching elder. Carpenter compensated for shoulder and arm weakness the last couple of years with manic weight training designed to strengthen his lower body. Rosenthal, who has never thrown more than 131 2/3 innings in four professional seasons, saw more muscle as a way to enhance his durability, an attribute he hoped to parlay as a starting pitcher.

Carpenter long ago became a workout monster trying to outrun a career end that has forever lurked around the next corner. He found a compadre in Rosenthal.

“That’s my personality. That’s how I do it,” Rosenthal says. “If I’m not doing something I feel like I’m being lazy. For me, to get in there and do something each day I feel like I’m headed in the right direction.”

For the next 2½ months Rosenthal spent three to five hours at the stadium five or six times a week working with strength and conditioning coach Pete Prinzi. Rosenthal simultaneously pressed 100-pound dumbbells. He performed sets of three or four 350-pound squats. He isolated certain parts of his body one day, other parts the next.

Rosenthal pushed himself through cardio and agility training. He ate. He threw. Some days he worked out with Carpenter at the Rams Park indoor facility.

By the time Rosenthal reached spring training he had added 10 pounds of muscle, strengthened his lower half, become more developed around the shoulders and had been throwing for two months.

“My upper body has always been pretty strong but I’ve tried to get my lower half a lot stronger,” says Rosenthal, who speaks of controlling more weight than before within his lifting regimen.

Rosenthal insists his destination was always Roger Dean Stadium, not Muscle Beach.

“My goal was to get a stronger body. I’m anticipating pitching a lot of games and logging a lot of innings at the major-league level,” he says.

Listed at (an outdated) 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds in the Cardinals’ 2012 media guide, Rosenthal is trying to realize benefits at the outset of a career that took on brilliance in 8 2/3 postseason innings against the Washington Nationals and San Francisco Giants.

On a national stage Rosenthal struck out 15 against two walks and two hits. This was after the Lee’s Summit, Mo., native permitted fewer than one baserunner per inning in 19 regular-season appearances with the parent club.

How big was Rosenthal last winter?

General manager John Mozeliak fielded more inquiries about Rosenthal than Shelby Miller, the 2009 first-round draftee and a certifiable “can’t miss.”

That’s certainly big — even huge.

But Rosenthal wanted to be bigger, stronger and more durable. Used exclusively in relief last season, he covets a spot in the Cardinals’ rotation. So four days after the Giants eliminated the Cardinals from the NLCS, Rosenthal returned to the Busch Stadium weight room and hardly left.

“I feel exactly the same,” he says. “I know I’ve put on a couple pounds here and there. But that’s the first thing I’ve noticed. I don’t feel different. That’s the cool part of the training.”

Manager Mike Matheny believes it takes years for a player to determine the offseason program that works best. For example, Miller went home to Texas after the 2011 season and combined his workout with a strict diet that left him looking good on a surfboard but underpowered on a pitching mound. Miller needed more than a half-season at Class AAA Memphis to regain velocity, mechanics and weight. This winter he consumed more carbohydrates (often barbecue), lifted and pushed his weight to 230 pounds, 27 pounds heavier than when he entered camp last February.

Oh, and Miller squats 400 pounds.

“Last year I was strong but I was more cut after doing lighter weights with more reps to be leaner,” Miller said. “Now I have more power to lift more weight. I put the effort in this winter to get stronger and bigger.”

Heavy lifting once represented a taboo for pitchers. Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist remembers only two Nautilus machines inside the clubhouse “weight room” during his 1989 rookie season with the Atlanta Braves.

Fear existed then that lifting would cost pitchers flexibility and possibly contribute to injury.

“There’s a right way to do everything,” Lilliquist says. “If you go overboard it can affect mechanics. Adding 20-25 pounds of muscle, there’s a chance your body’s physiology could change and alter how you throw. If you’re really packing a lot of extra pounds on it could definitely happen that way.”

Rosenthal was less than sharp in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday. However, Matheny and Lilliquist saw a young pitcher overthrowing to impress, not one working with altered mechanics.

“You’d like him to come in where he was last year, essentially dominating hitters,” Lilliquist says. “But a lot of times for younger guys it takes three or four outings to feel the rhythm and tempo click.”

Matheny is not a fan of the weight topic. He became impatient when waves of reporters approached 18-game winner Lance Lynn about his dramatic weight loss as if he’d delivered twins. Of course, questions to Lynn focused on whether the pendulum had swung too far in the other direction.

“These guys went home or, in Trevor’s case, stayed around and did what they were supposed to do,” says Matheny. “They worked hard. They did the right thing for themselves and the team. It’s commitment on their part.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This replaces an earlier version that reported in incorrect innings total in the 5th paragraph.

Roger Hensley is the assistant managing editor/sports at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He can be followed on Twitter @stlhensley

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