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Cardinals Warm-up Day 1: Tyler O'Neill joins Team Canada, hits with Jim Edmonds

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Tyler O'Neill gets batting tips from Jim Edmonds

While awaiting the birth of his and wife Stephanie's first child, Tyler O'Neill spent a lot of the offseason in St. Louis, and that gave him the chance to get a new hitting partner.

O'Neill spent time during the offseason working out with Jim Edmonds and the All-Star's home batting cage. O'Neill said the one-on-one time gave him new insight on hitting, his swing, and approach with pitches. Edmonds, who spends most of his time around the team as part of the television broadcast, has spent time with hitters in recent years, some of them, like Harrison Bader, drawn to him for his seasoned perspective.

The team has invited the Cardinals Hall of Famer to work with hitters.

O'Neill spent as much of the winter as possible working directly with the Cardinals' trainers on his workout program.

The Cardinals and O'Neill agreed on a salary for his 2023 salary on Friday, and O'Neill said that getting that deal done was a priority after his experience a year ago. O'Neill was candid as he prepared for an arbitration hearing with the Cardinals and acknowledged that he lost sleep as it approached and that he was frustrated a multi-year deal could not be completed.

Avoiding that this year was important, he said.

"It feels like a weight lifted off my back," O'Neill said. "It was a lot of on me mentally. I lost sleep on it." — Derrick Goold (2:38 p.m.)

O’Neill to join Team Canada for World Baseball Classic

Maple Ridge, British Columbia native Tyler O’Neill, 27, announced he would participate in the World Baseball Classic this spring with Team Canada. It marks his second appearance at the WBC with Canada and his third appearance with the national team at a major event, winning Gold at the 2015 Pan-Am games in Toronto.

O’Neill collected one hit at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, starting all three games despite the Canadians going winless. At the time, O’Neill had yet to make his major league debut and was still a member of the Seattle Mariners organization.

Hall of Famer and former Cardinal Larry Walker has served as the bench coach for Team Canada in the past. - Carter Chapley (2:15 p.m.) 

Pitching prospects “on track,” LaRocque says

During a Q&A for fans inside of Ballpark Village that also featured president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and minor league pitching coordinator Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals’ farm director Gary LaRocque said some of the top pitching prospects within the Cardinals system have “caught up to the levels of their respective leagues.” Some of the names that LaRocque mentioned that have progressed well during their developmental tracks in the minors included righties Gordon Graceffo, the Cardinals’ 2022 minor-league pitcher of the year, former first-round pick Michael McGreevy, and 20-year-old Tink Hence. — Daniel Guerrero (2:40 p.m.)

Contreras' cameos in Jupiter, not likely for WBC

Willson Contreras, the Cardinals' centerpiece addition of the winter, has made several appearances at the team's facility in Jupiter, Fla., according to teammates. Dakota Hudson said he first met Contreras as a teammate recently at the club's spring training complex, and Steven Matz is headed to Florida in the next week with hopes of throwing bullpens to Contreras.

During his introductory press conference, Contreras said he was already starting to get to know the pitchers with his new team, and several of the pitchers have heard from the catcher as he does his scouting reports.

The Cardinals expect Contreras to spend all of spring with them and not play for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

That means his time working with pitchers will not be interrupted, though several of the Cardinals' pitchers are expected to go compete in the World Baseball Classic: Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas are on Team USA, Giovanny Gallegos will likely pitch for Team Mexico, and Andre Pallante could be with Team Italy. — Derrick Goold (2:30 p.m.)

Holliday's choice caused scramble

When Matt Holliday notified the Cardinals that he would not be joining them as bench coach, it sparked a rush, on the eve of spring training, to determine who would.

The decision took less than a week.

“We were,” said John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, “fortunate.”

Holliday told the Cardinals a week ago, on January 14, that he had reconsidered the time away from family and the timing of joining the big-league staff. His decision came a few months after manager Oliver Marmol and Mozeliak announced Holliday’s addition to the big-league staff – and then a few weeks before the opening of spring training. The day after Holliday notified the Cardinals, Mozeliak came to his office at Busch Stadium and, in his words, plunged into the “Rolodex.”

Several internal candidates were considered for a promotion and Cardinals officials discussed how that would cause shifting of the coaching staffs at the top levels. The Cardinals also had a stack of candidates already considered for the bench coach role. For example, the Cardinals reached out to former Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo earlier this winter about his interest in their bench coach spot. The Chicago White Sox hired him in early November for the bench coach roll.

At Mozeliak’s fingertips and always in mind for a spot over the past decade or so was Joe McEwing. The Cardinals interviewed him for the manager role back in 2011. He spent more than the past decade as a coach with the White Sox, serving both in the bench coach role and third-base coach role. And he was available this late in the offseason.

And that’s notable.

It’s traditional for the bench coach to keep the trains running and organize the logistics of spring training. Former Cardinals manager Mike Shildt’s first leap toward the manager job was running minor-league spring training, and he ran the major-league camp as Mike Matheny’s bench coach. As did David Bell before leaving for a role in San Francisco and ultimately going to the Reds as manager. This past spring, Skip Schumaker orchestrated the schedules for spring training and adjusted (sometimes on the fly) as changes were made, drills were repeated, injuries happened, and so on.

The bench coach’s role, while prominent in the day to day decision making and scheduling during the team, is vital to spring training. And with 3 ½ weeks to go before camp opens, the Cardinals had an opening. They filled it with someone who has a head start by having years of experience in the job. – Derrick Goold (2:44 p.m.)

'There's a lot to like, right?’ John Mozeliak on SS prospect Masyn Winn

Elite shortstops were available — all the billionaire owners had to do was give them money.

But the Cardinals’ owners didn’t. They bypassed on the likes of Trea Turner (meanwhile, the team that had just won the National League pennant added him). Part of the Cardinals’ decision was their confidence in shortstop Tommy Edman in the present. Another aspect was the Cardinals’ confidence in future. Namely, Masyn Winn.

“I think he's a modern shortstop,” John Mozeliak, the Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, said Saturday during Winter Warm-up. “He runs, he's got pop and an extremely elite arm. I think the nuances at shortstop are just what he's working through.”

Winn turns 21 on March 21. The 5-foot-10 Texan hit .349 with a .970 OPS in 33 games for Class-A Peoria last year. Promoted to Class-AA Springfield, Winn hit .258 with a .781 OPS, while hitting 11 homers with 28 stolen bases in 86 games.

“He’s an emerging hitter,” said Mozeliak, who didn’t want to give a player comp for Winn.

As for Winn’s defense and the 100-mph arm from the hole, Mozeliak said: “When you think about the game of baseball, you know all of us are spoiled, right? We sit here and we watch Major League Baseball and the game looks so easy when it's played. If you guys want to see the game played at a high school level, I recommend you go and do that — it's different, right? You go to a game in low A, it's different. And what's different about it? It’s really the speed of the game, it's the crispness of the game. And these guys make it look so easy. We just assume everybody can do it. But, when I watched Mason play, especially this past year down in Springfield, there's a lot to like, right?

“When you put your scouting hat on, you can write up tools. Now it's a sort of understanding the nuances of that — where to be, where to make throws, positioning your feet. These are all just little things that — guess what, it just takes time. It just takes repetition. But to have his tool set at his age, and to do it at the level he's doing, is pretty special.” – Benjamin Hochman (2:15 p.m.)  

Shift 'ban' won't entirely block creative defenses

One of the biggest misunderstandings of the limitations on defensive shifts new to MLB in 2023 is the assumption that the rule change will lead to only "normal" looking defensive alignments. Four infielders must have both feet placed within the outer boundary of the infield, with two on both side of second base. But the rules say nothing about overloaded infields, if a situation warrants it.

“I’ll be curious to see what happens with the no-shift,” Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Saturday during a Q&A with fans. “I’m hearing rumors that we could start seeing five-person infields and two-man outfields. When you think about that sort of setup, what is it going to look like, and how can it be accomplished? One in interest fact is, if the Cardinals go down that path, is we do have guys that can actually stand in the dirt and in the grass. Is it something we can leverage?"

Mozeliak said he thinks the addition of a strictly enforced pitch clock will cause as much if not more adjustments for veteran hitters (and their in-between-swing routines) than pitchers. Asked about number retirements for recently retired Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, Mozeliak said a timing has not been determined, but suggested strongly both will happen in the future.

- Ben Frederickson (12:50 p.m.)

Some Cardinals offseason pursuits did not come to fruition

Outside of accomplishing what president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said was the Cardinals’ top goal in free agency with the signing of catcher Willson Contreras, there were things that Mozeliak said the Cardinals “weren’t able to accomplish.” Among those additions the Cardinals explored included finding a veteran left-handed hitter to add to their lineup. Mozeliak said the Cardinals’ current roster makeup and the competition that could come with it for a left-handed hitter might not have been “very compelling” for possible additions.

When it came to the shortstop and starting pitching markets, Mozeliak noted his club wasn’t very active in those areas. — Daniel Guerrero (12:03 p.m.)

Cardinals prospect Jake Walsh says his arm feels the best it has in a long time.

After being sidelined for most of the 2022 season, Cardinals prospect Jake Walsh says his arm “feels the best it has in a very long time.” Suffering from a strained UCL early in the 2022 campaign, Walsh revealed he received a stem cell injection as part of his recovery before taking time off to complete his rehab. While working in West Palm Beach, FL, Walsh says he has been participating in full-intensity bullpen work, touching as high as 97 mph in limited radar gun sessions, and doing long toss work. His focus is now building up to be a full participant in spring training. — Carter Chapley (11:59 a.m.)

Mozeliak hopes future with team isn't "distraction" in 2023

Entering the final year of his current contract as president of baseball operations, Mozeliak said he does not want his contract status and future with the team to be a distraction for the ball club heading into 2023.

Mozeliak said he and Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. have discussed the former's future with the team but no determination has been made. Those conversations will continue, Mozeliak said.  — Daniel Guerrero (11:21 a.m.)

What to expect from Winter Warm up

Within hours of the doors opening Saturday morning to the Cardinals' Winter Warm-up for the first time in nearly three years, questions will greet the team's longtime architect.

As has been his tradition at the annual fanfest, John Mozeliak, president of baseball operations, will participate in a questions-and-answers session. The event will be on the main stage at Ballpark Village starting at 11:20 a.m. St. Louis time Saturday, and there's tidbit of news that the questions usually shake loose.

Years ago it was on the stage that Mozeliak surrendered to the inevitable arrival of the designated hitter in the National League.

He has at least once brought a new hire or new player with him to introduce to the fans. And he has not shied from addressing the teams spending and player acquisition — or lack thereof.

The main stage Q & A will be the centerpiece of Mozeliak's day at Winter Warm-up. He'll also meet with the media (look for coverage in this space) and hold an autograph session.

Other notable events on Day 1 at the Cardinals campus:

• Steven Matz led off the signing sessions Saturday. Other current players who will be making appearances include Andrew Knizner, Jordan Hicks, Nolan Gorman, Tyler O'Neill, and Tommy Edman, who is fresh off agreeing to terms on a contract for 2023 and going through his first swing at arbitration power.

• Prospects Alec Burleson and Matthew Liberatore are also signing.

• Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals' farm director, will discuss the organization's minor leagues and player development on the main stage at 1 p.m.

• Jenifer Langosch, a former beat writer and now editor for MLB.com, will host a panel discussion with several of the writers, including a representative from the Post-Dispatch, depending on news. That will be in the Shark Bar at 11 a.m.

• Post-Dispatch sports columnist Benjamin Hochman will tell more tales from the Cardinals 2011 World Series championship during his presentation in the Shark Bar at 3 p.m.

• One of the auction items currently being bid on by fans is a chance to meet with general manager Michael Girsch during batting practice and discuss strategy and team-building.

There will also be a handful of former players, including coach and all-time saves leader Jason Isringhausen, present at the Warm-up for Day 1. At some point through the weekend, the Cardinals also intend to welcome back Joe McEwing to the organization as he takes over as bench coach. — Derrick Goold (10:14 a.m.)

Intro to live Cardinals coverage at Warm-up

The Cardinals winter fan celebration is back in full swing for the first time since 2020. The list of Cardinals speaking today include Jordan Hicks, Tyler O'Neill, Alec Burleson, Nolan Gorman, Tommy Edman, Andrew Knizner and more. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak will also be addressing the media at 10:15 a.m. 

Check back in throughout the day for updates provided by all members of the Post-Dispatch team. — Carter Chapley (9:45 a.m.)

The Cardinals Winter Warm-Up has been cancelled for 2022, so let's look back at the fun of years' past.

First day of Cardinals 2023 Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up

Fans crowd Ballpark Village on the first day the St. Louis Cardinals 2023 Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch

First day of Cardinals 2023 Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up

Fans crowd Ballpark Village on the first day the St. Louis Cardinals 2023 Cardinals Care Winter Warm-Up. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch

Clubhouse tours at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-UP

Jack Meyers, 7, of Creve Coeur winds up while pretending to be Cardinals pitcher Jordan Hicks during a tour of the clubhouse on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023, the first day of the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up at Busch Stadium. 

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