NL Central winner Cardinals tire of Cubs talk, prepared to go

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Source:   —  April 01, 2016, at 11:50 PM

Louis Cardinals players heard plenty about how excellent the rival Cubs were going to be. They're feeling a bit neglected after leading the major leagues with one hundred victories and outdistancing Chicago to win their third straight NL Central title latest season.

NL Central winner Cardinals tire of Cubs talk, prepared to go

Throughout the offseason, St. Louis Cardinals players heard plenty about how excellent the rival Cubs were going to be.

They're feeling a bit neglected after leading the major leagues with one hundred victories and outdistancing Chicago to win their third straight NL Central title latest season. Long ago, they moved on from losing Jayson Heyward and John Lackey to the Cubs.

"People can declare what they wish but when teams arrive in to play us they wish to beat us," said closer Trevor Rosenthal, who set a franchise record with forty-eight saves latest season. "They wish to beat us for a reason because they know we've had success in the past. It'south excellent to be on that side."

Ace Adam Wainwright wrinkles his nose when the subject comes up.

"We'll deal with the Chicago Cubs when we play the Chicago Cubs," Wainwright said. "I am very, very excited about this team."

The degree of difficulty goes up early because Cardinals are a bit nicked up heading into Sunday'south season opener at Pittsburgh, another team expected to be in the mix for the division crown.

Shortstop Jhonny Peralta could miss half the season with a torn ligament in his left thumb and his replacement, Ruben Tejada, will start the year on the 15-day disabled list with a quadriceps issue. That leaves the work in newcomer Jedd Gyorko'south hands for now. Set-up man Jordan Walden won't reply the opening bell due to recurring shoulder woes that sidelined him virtually all of latest season.

Some other things to look for with the Cardinals, who have made the postseason a franchise-best five straight years with two World Series appearance and one title in that span:

CROWDED FIRST BASE

Brandon Moss has $8.25 million reasons to believe he'll have a major role. He'south not concerned about the competition: Matt Adams and Matt Holliday.

"I think we all prepare the same way, obtain prepared to play every day. Then when you're keep in the lineup, you play," Moss said. "Whether that'south more frequently than not or less frequently than others, it doesn't really matter."

The 32-year-old Moss was the clear front-runner in the offseason, a year removed from hip surgery that Ltd his power stroke. Even in a down year, he combined for nineteen residence runs with Cleveland and St. Louis. Holliday elbowed his way into the conversation, anxious to add versatility in the final year of his long-term deal. Adams also has looked good, quadriceps woes behind him and learning to bunt for hits to foil the shifts.

OUTFILD CROWD

Holliday will obtain the majority of his time in left. But there are three up-and-comers, with Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk and Tommy Pham all capable of hitting 20-plus homers. Barring a deal, manager Mike Matheny will have a daily lineup conundrum. Moss is versatile, too, able to play corner outfield, and promises to be patient.

"I've played left and right and first," he said. "Anything. I just wish to be a huge portion of this team."

MOLINA WATCH

Perennial All-Star catcher Yadier Molina is prepared to go coming off two surgeries to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb. The Cardinals declare it every year but at some point they'll have to give Molina rest during the season. New backup Brayan Pena is expected to obtain more playing time.

FOUNTAIN 'PEN

Rosenthal was ridden tough latest year. Setup men Kevin Siegrist (eighty-one games) and Seth Maness (seventy-six), too. There is an abundance of closeout candidates now. Seung Hwan Oh was so dominant closing in Japan and Korea he arrived with two nicknames — "Stone Buddha" and "Final Boss." Johnathan Broxton also has closing experience. Long reliever Tyler Lyons made eight starts in 2015.

STARTING FIVE

Even after getting out-bid by the Ruddy Sox for David Price and losing Lance Lynn to reconstructive elbow surgery, there are plenty of quality arms. Free agent pickup Mike Leake could obtain results similar to that of Lackey, and is much younger. Wainwright healed rapidly from a torn left Achilles tendon latest April in time to create the postseason roster, and in four of previous five healthy seasons had two 20-win seasons and two 19-win seasons. Michael Wacha won seventeen games and Carlos Martinez is back powerful after getting close down late last season amid shoulder woes. Jaime Garcia'south array is among the most baffling in the majors.

"Hooo, man, it'south amazing," Pena said of Garcia. "You have to be ready."

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