Albert Pujols released a statement addressing Tony La Russa’s retirement:
I’d like to congratulate Tony on his amazing Hall of Fame career. He’s been like a father to me and in my opinion, is one of the greatest managers in the history of the game. I’ve been blessed to be able to learn from Tony for the past 11 years and I wish him well on his retirement.
La Russa is the only manager Pujols has played for as a major leaguer and earlier this week David Eckstein opined that Pujols would re-sign with the Cardinals if they promote third base coach Jose Oquendo to replace him. Ultimately the dollars and years will probably determine if Pujols stays in St. Louis, but it’s hard to imagine the Cardinals not taking his preferences seriously when choosing La Russa’s successor.
The Cardinals have selected right-hander Miles Mikolas as their Opening Day starter, the club revealed Saturday. It’ll mark the first career Opening Day start for Mikolas, who is scheduled to go up against the Brewers when the team hits the road on March 28.
The 29-year-old righty was a strong contender for the 2018 NL Cy Young Award, earning All-Star distinctions and pitching to a career-best 18-4 record with a 2.83 ERA, 1.3 BB/9, 6.5 SO/9, and 4.3 fWAR over 200 2/3 innings. He’s positioned to lead the Cardinals rotation in 2019 as well, with former Opening Day starters Carlos Martínez and Adam Wainwright and some combination of right-handers Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha, Alex Reyes, and John Gant behind him.
Manager Mike Shildt told reporters that Flaherty, Wacha, Wainwright, and Martínez had all been considered for the honor, but admitted that Opening Day honors were ultimately handed to Mikolas “in recognition of [his performance] last year.” The Cardinals are scheduled to play a four-game set against the Brewers to start the season and will stop over in Pittsburgh for another two games before returning to St. Louis for their opening homestand against the Padres on April 4. Additional pitching assignments have yet to be announced.