With many at camp, Cards set sights high

Matheny pleased with early crew as pitchers, catchers reporting date arrives

With many at camp, Cards set sights high

JUPITER, Fla. -- With sights set on a fourth consecutive division title and a deeper run into October than their last, the Cardinals are a day away from holding their first official workout of 2016.

Pitchers and catchers were required to report to Jupiter on Wednesday, though many have already been in town and participating in voluntary workouts for days. Manager Mike Matheny, for one, arrived last week and has been observing the work, even standing in on Monday to track pitches as Adam Wainwright threw off the mound.

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Others, like new catcher Brayan Pena and lefty starter Jaime Garcia, popped into the spring clubhouse for the first time on Wednesday. Even Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who is 93, has arrived.

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"It's awesome," Pena said. "I have been looking forward to this moment. The first thing I did was say hi to the guys and the coaching staff. This is a first-class clubhouse in general, and I'm very excited about this opportunity."

After players undergo physicals, Matheny will run the club's workout on Thursday, which will include about a dozen pitchers throwing side sessions off the mound, some for the first time since the end of last season. Matheny said on Tuesday that he was not aware of travel or visa issues that should keep anyone from arriving on time.

The organization's Spring Training invite list includes 33 pitchers (12 as non-roster invitees) and eight catchers (five non-roster invitees). The only one of the bunch who will be sidelined is Lance Lynn, who underwent Tommy John surgery in November and will not pitch at all this season.

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On the catching side, Yadier Molina will open camp under strict limitations while recovering from a pair of offseason procedures to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. He likely won't catch for at least the first two weeks of camp.

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Otherwise, the Cardinals' group of pitchers and catchers boast good health. Carlos Martinez and Jordan Walden will be among those closely monitored throughout spring. The Cards intend to map out slightly altered schedules for both to account for the ailments that ended each of their 2015 seasons.

While the Cardinals, barring injury, have their rotation all but set, the club will build up more than the requisite five starters this spring. Others who will make multiple-inning appearances early include Marco Gonzales, Tyler Lyons and Tim Cooney.

But while the calendar may denote Wednesday as the official report date, several have gotten a head start. Those early arrivals include position players, too, like Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Kolten Wong and Randal Grichuk.

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"We praise that," Matheny said of those who opted to report early. "I think we make a big deal about that on purpose so that these guys are encouraged to be down here. They don't have to kill themselves in how they're working and preparing, but being down here is an advantage if you can swing it."

When the pitchers and catchers begin workouts on Thursday, position players will continue to participate in informal on-field activities. The team's first full-squad workout is then scheduled for Tuesday, nine days ahead of the Cards' Grapefruit League opener against the Marlins. It's all leading up, of course, to Opening Day on April 3.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.