Veteran Schumaker committed to helping young Cards
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Skip Schumaker knows the big league life won’t last forever, that some high draft pick will eventually take his job. Helping those kids get ready, he believes, is part of his job.
St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak envisions Schumaker as a super utility player this season, capable of starting at second base where he’s been the regular the last two seasons, and at all three outfield spots. The Cardinals are giving Tyler Greene, a first-round draft pick in 2005 and perennial prospect, every chance of winning the second base job.
Schumaker knows nothing is settled yet for this season. Whatever happens, he’s determined not to sabotage the process.
He frowns at a memory of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre’s stance several years ago, that it wasn’t part of his job description to help Aaron Rodgers out.
“I think that’s a crock,” Schumaker said. “That is part of the deal.”
Rookie manager Mike Matheny has been talking all spring about veterans doing all they can to help the prospects. He’s made it a point to match established players with minor leaguers in drills and on the bullpen mounds, hoping the younger players pick up some of the little secrets from Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.
Schumaker was one player he didn’t have to encourage or remind. Schumaker remembers getting help from veterans Jim Edmonds and John Mabry as he was cracking the majors, and is determined to pass that on.
Mabry, in his first year as assistant hitting coach with the team, said he was shepherded by Willie McGee, also in camp as a guest instructor.
“You’re not going to last forever in this game, and you’ve got to kind of plant a tree that you’re not going to sit under the shade with,” Mabry said. “You’ve got to prepare guys, tell them what to expect, what the pitchers are trying to do to them.”
Matheny did what he could to help Yadier Molina, a Gold Glove winner the last four years.
“I’ve said that for a long time,” Matheny said. “I said that right when he took my job and even his peers thought that this year.”
Schumaker is 32, only four years older than Greene, whose success at Triple-A Memphis has not translated yet to the majors. Greene is a career .218 hitter in the majors, but batted .323 with 14 homers at Memphis last season.
“I’m sure they want him to succeed,” Schumaker said. “He has all the talent in the world, he has all the tools, but it just hasn’t shown here. It’s a big jump, it’s not easy.”
Schumaker remembers getting one hit in his first 20 at-bats of 2008, when he started at all three outfield spots and was the opening day starter in right. He totaled eight hits the next three games and batted .302 on the year.
“It’s a mental game, and I know part of it with Tyler is mental,” Schumaker said. “If he can get through that, he’ll be fine. It’ll just be better for our team if he can put it all together.”
If he can’t, Greene won’t be alone.
“Tony (La Russa) played the hot hand a lot and if you look around the league that’s what usually happens,” Schumaker said. “If a guy’s not doing the job they find someone else. You do or you don’t, that’s in life, too. That’s the deal.”
The Cardinals have another second baseman in the pipeline, taking Hawaii’s Kolten Wong last June. Wong played at Class A Quad Cities last year.
“Kolten is going to be here one day and the easier the transition, the quicker it’ll be for him to adjust at the major league level,” Schumaker said. “So whatever he needs, I’m always open.”
He’s determined not to peek back at the competition, either, preferring to trust in his ability.
“As soon you start looking over your shoulder, you start forgetting who you are and what it takes to be a major leaguer,” Schumaker said. “You start concerning yourself with other players and forget you need to get ready for the game, too.
“I don’t concern myself with competition, I just get myself ready to play. Eventually he’s going to take that job.”
Notes: The Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina reportedly are close on a multiyear contract extension. Both sides were mum on the topic, with Molina saying, “I don’t know.” ...The top two projected starters, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, both threw batting practice. It was the first such session for the 37-year-old Carpenter, who’s building gradually and is expected to skip his first spring training start. ... Matheny had rave reviews for Carlos Beltran’s bat. “Apparently he can hit a curveball because he lost about $400 worth of baseballs yesterday off the curveball machine.”