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Katie Woo | The AthleticMLB Cardinals Reporter

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence
The Truth Network Radio
August 23, 2022 6:05 am

Katie Woo | The AthleticMLB Cardinals Reporter

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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August 23, 2022 6:05 am

St. Louis Cardinals reporter for The Athletic MLB Katie Woo joins the show to recap Albert Pujols' big night, and well as the Red Bird's 8-game winning streak.


Really excited to head to Chicago now. Welcome Katie Wu, who covers the Cardinals for the Athletic. Katie, what's it been like to see Albert catch fire and hit now seven home runs in his last 10 games? Well, it's been nothing short of storybook for the St. Louis fans, and really fans in baseball. I mean, when the Cardinals decided to bring Pujols back on a one-year contract to end his career in St. Louis, I think it was really easy for fans to say, well, this is clearly a nostalgia move from the Cardinals.

But that's not really what it was at all. The Cardinals were very adamant that they believe that Albert Pujols could benefit this team hitting against left-handed pitching, and he has definitely somehow exceeded that expectation. At a couple of plays in the field, too, at first base in the late stages to preserve the shutout, along with some of the other defense behind Jordan Montgomery. When Oliver says that he's igniting the team, how do you see that?

How does it work on the field? You know, I think it's really similar, and it's rare that this happens, where the igniting of the team is similar to how Pujols is igniting the fan base. I mean, you look at the Cardinals, and it's easy to think of the ages with Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina and Pujols, of course. But the core of that Cardinals team is guys in their young 20s, mid-20s that really don't know baseball without Albert Pujols. Some of these guys are playing with their favorite player.

And to see the resurgence, to see the ability, to see the domination again. I mean, Pujols is 42 years old, sitting in the bat like he's 22 again, that puts such a charge in this clubhouse. On the field says enough. Off the field, Pujols is first in the cage with these younger guys.

He's always working, always taking extra reps, always showing things to these younger guys. I mean, you have players like Dylan Carlson, Lars Neufar, young outfielders that are going to be the future of this Cardinals team, going to Pujols every at bat, saying, what are you seeing here? How can I get better?

How can I improve? So that kind of stuff, again, it seems storybook. It doesn't seem real, and you're seeing Albert Pujols at his greatest one last time. I think it's been such a treat for the baseball world. How was it to be at these last few games before they went to Chicago in St. Louis with the buzz in the crowd?

Well, you know, Amy, it's different when you're working games. You're constantly checking stats, you're scores, you're keeping score, you're checking Twitter, having conversations in the press box. Yeah, that all ceases when Pujols sets up to the plate. Everyone is locked in because you just don't know what you're going to see. I was actually in the stands with a friend saying hi in the seventh inning when Pujols goes up to face Drew Smiley for the third time.

And I said, hey, I got to pay attention because I just feel like something's going to happen here. And somehow, in some way, it's both surprising and not what he's been able to do. Oh, fantastic. Katie Wu is with us from Chicago, where the Cardinals and the Cubs just started a five-game series, and we get history, not just from Albert Pujols in home run number 693, but also Jordan Montgomery, first time he's ever pitched past the seventh inning in his career. And he is pitching some kind of wonderful since he became a St. Louis Cardinal. What does he have to say for this stretch in which he's gone 4-0 with an ERA of.35?

No, it's incredible. I think this is the Cardinals' team that was really searching for rotation answers come the trade deadline. President of Baseball Operations John Mazzelloc addressed that in training for Montgomery and Jose Quintana. The Cardinals are a combined 7-0 and starts that, oh, 8-0 now, and starts that Montgomery and Quintana have taken the mound for. Montgomery has really credited, I mean, he's always had the skill. The Yankees never saw him as a player or pitcher that could go deep in games. Cardinals needed him to, based on the five games in four days, the doubleheader tomorrow, the bullpen having to cover a lot of innings over the last two games. Really, Montgomery has said that's what he likes to do. He likes to compete. He's a strike thrower, and he's credited Yadi or Molina, who's returned from the injured list and has really carried the rotation in terms of stabilizing it. He says that he's never really used his glove side fastball before, but Yadi saw it after their first outing and really encouraged an emphasis on using that fastball more, locating it more to the third base side of the plate, and then using the sinker to play off of that.

That's paid dividends. Montgomery has been probably one of the best trade-line pick-ups for the Cardinals in recent history. I mean, he's allowed one earned run in 25-2 thirds in his Cardinals tenure and has not walked a batter in his last 15 innings.

So, I would say, pretty good trade. Does he ever mention the Yankees, or can you not get that out of him? He's actually asked us to not mention the Yankees. He has said, you know, I was traded three weeks ago. I'm a Cardinal now.

This is where I want to be. But I just see some reports that the Yankees were watching the end of the Cardinals game and were really happy for their former teammate today. You mentioned Yadi, and it just kind of popped in my brain. It's hard to think about the Cardinals with someone else behind the plate because he's been such a staple for them for so long, also 40 years old. Who is the heir apparent to Yadi or Molina as the catcher of the Cardinals?

That's a great question. I mean, the Cardinals have seen some improvements with their reserve catcher, Andrew Kisner, but they also have their top caching prospect, Yvonne Herrera, long been regarded to take over the reins, if you will, when Yadi or Molina retires. I mean, they're by no means asking him to fill that void.

That is probably an impossible task, but that is someone that Yadi has mentored through training over the off-season. He might be a little bit away from being major league ready right now, which makes the off-season, I think, really important for the Cardinals. And I think it'll be interesting to see if they decide to trade for a catcher or even sign, you know, Wilson Contreras from the Cubs. He'll be a free agent just to kind of bridge that gap. Certainly, it'll be a very perplexing decision for the Cardinals to make. I mean, Yadi or Molina's been behind the plate for whatever for the Cardinals.

It will take some getting used to. I mean, it's pretty unique to have the triumvirate, if you will, with Albert Pujols being back, Yadi or Molina, and then Adam Wainwright, one of my favorite pitchers in the majors for everything he brings to the clubhouse as well as to the mound. The three of them all departing, riding off to the sunset at the same time. I mean, that's, it's, I don't know that I can remember a time when we've seen three such important members of an organization all depart simultaneously. No, and I think, you know, it's actually, I think Adam Wainwright's building a case for staying another year.

Nice. I mean, he is, he turns 41 at the end of the month. He's been the Cardinals ace now for two consecutive seasons. You look upon the National League leaderboard, he's ranked fifth in innings pitched. He's missed just one start of the season. He has been the workhorse the Cardinals expected him to be, and he's had to carry even more weight with Jack Flaherty. He's gone for most of the season with injury. So, I mean, Wainwright said, yeah, I don't think he's made a decision yet, but it's certainly, I think, building a case for if he wants to come back for 2023, he has the ability to. Katie Wu covers the Cardinals for the athletic with us from Chicago, fresh off that big one nothing win that extended the streak to eight games.

What else is behind the surge, Katie? I think this is a matter of a Cardinal team that's finally found its consistency. I mean, in the first half, St. Louis was searching.

They really didn't have an answer in form of the rotation. I mean, Stephen Maas, their big off-season acquisition, has been hurt most of the year. They expected Jack Flaherty that I mentioned to return and be the ace for the rotation. Both have been hindered by injuries. Miles Michaelis has had a remarkable comeback season. He's missed the last 18 months from injury. But, you know, as you know, Amy, you can't rely on Adam Wainwright and Miles Michaelis to carry a five-man rotation.

You need three others to step up. So, it goes back to how the Cardinals addressed the trade deadline. Obviously, they were linked for Juan Soto.

Instead, they went for their obvious knee. They got two durable, reliable, experienced veteran pitchers. Cantana and Montgomery have restabilized that rotation and rejuvenated that clubhouse. And you ask any player, no matter position or role, and they'll say starting pitching is the catalyst for the team's success. Cardinals are known throughout baseball for being a defense first team, but their offense has been very productive. I mean, they have probably the National League MVP in Paul Goldschmidt and someone that's probably going to finish top three in MVP voting in Nolan Arenado.

And they just seem to be clicking all at the same time. I think what you're seeing now is a team that is convicted that they can win because they have the pieces that they were missing so direly in the first half. Is there an expectation that Flaherty could be back in the rotation before the end of the regular season because he's pitching in double-A, right? Or double-A, triple-A? Yes, so he just finished his third rehab start, his second with double-A Springfield, and he's slated for his fourth rehab start with triple-A Memphis on Friday. He'll be right along those 80 pitches. The Cardinals are hoping to activate him either right after that start or maybe doing one after, depending on how he recovers. But he's eligible to come off the 60-A on August 26th. Cardinals will likely wait until the September 1st when rosters expand so they don't have to make a corresponding move.

And he'll be slotted right back into the rotation, assuming that he recovers well and is healthy. And I could not think of a bigger boost for this Cardinals team than Albert Poole is going for 700, a padded lead in the division, and their eighth pitcher coming back and leading the rotation for the final month of the regular season. Before I let you go, I have to ask, well, first let me just say, I was surprised when the Cardinals made the managerial change.

It's clear that Oliver Marmol had been working toward this opportunity. They really like him in the organization. He's not new in baseball, even if this is his first managerial job at the big league level. What does he bring to the table that's different from what they had?

I think he brings a different perspective and a different look. And it's not like prior managers were unwilling to embrace the modern side of the game. I mean, the Cardinals are a very traditional ballclub.

But I think what Ollie has done is he's brought in this mixture of keeping up this tradition. I mean, he was a player in the Cardinals system. He's coached in the Cardinals system for over the last decade. He's a Cardinal through and through. So we understand the importance of the tradition of the organization.

But he also sees how the game is trending. The modernization of embracing analytics and opposing matchups and the splits and line of fluidity, something the Cardinals have never really done before. Usually, in years prior, you'd see the same starting nine pitching. The pitcher would change, of course, but the positions and the players and the batting order would not change. This Cardinals season, it just seems like there is so much more fluidity and flexibility.

There is no really set nine. There are different positions based on left-handers, right-handers are seen. It's not exactly groundbreaking science, nor is it the type of platoon that Gabe Kapler uses. But it's definitely an improvement. And I think the Cardinals players and the organization has really benefited from it. Do analytics or would analytics have indicated that after a first half in which Pujols had six home runs, that he'd go on a tear like this in the second half?

I don't think anyone would have predicted this, but at the same time, Amy, it is truly not surprising when you look at the caliber of player who's doing it. All I know is it is must-watch baseball right now. So if you're a fan and you find yourself in a city where the Cardinals are playing, it is absolutely worth seeing Albert Pujols playing one more time. Oh, amazing. I'm so happy for him, so happy for the Cardinals, and certainly for the St. Louis fan base that he's back doing it where he belongs. And I'm convinced now, I know Oliver Marmel is too, convinced that he's going to get 700.

There could be no better storyline to this summer. You can find Katie on Twitter at KatieJWoo, W-O-O. I just followed her, so you should too.

Covers the Cardinals for the Athletics in Chicago following in another big night for this team on both the mound as well as with Albert Pujols. It's great to catch up with you, Katie. Thank you so much for a couple of minutes. Amy, thanks so much for having me. Have a great night.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-30 11:27:57 / 2023-01-30 11:33:44 / 6

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