Cardinals’ Nolan Arenado fitting in seamlessly with new franchise

Nolan Arenado
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Nolan Arenado arrived at spring training about a week before the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals’ position players, trying to get accustomed to the time change of Florida from his home on the West Coast along with learning his way around his first new team in a dozen years in pro baseball.

Turns out the time change has been every bit the challenge of the new organization.

“I was hurting there for a while,” Arenado admitted, “but I’m good now.”

The Cardinals hope he can be great.

They were quiet almost the entire offseason, the grand sum of their moves amounting to the re-signing of erstwhile ace Adam Wainwright and a couple smaller transactions. But that all changed in the weeks before camp, when they got into serious talks for what became a three-team deal with the Rockies and Mets to land the star third baseman.

Suddenly, the Cardinals had pulled off one of the biggest acquisitions in baseball, solidifying their lineup with a five-time All-Star and three-time home run champion while making them one of the favorites to win the NL Central.

“For sure, it’s been great,” said Arenado, who was finally joined by the rest of the roster for the first full-squad workout of camp earlier this week. “If anything, I don’t know what some of their faces look like (because of masks), but other than that it’s smooth sailing. We’re talking outside in the tents, sitting 6 feet apart but still communicating, talking about the game, and I love it. The coaches are challenging me with new drills, new things to try and I really like that.”

Arenado was drafted by the Rockies in the second round of the 2009 draft and, almost from the moment he arrived in Colorado, became one of the premier hitters in the game. He wound up hitting .293 across his first eight seasons in the big leagues, hitting at least 37 homers for five consecutive years before the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

The two-time league leader in RBIs also happens to have eight consecutive Gold Gloves to his resume.

No wonder the Cardinals, who were looking to upgrade at third base, turned their attention immediately to him, then pulled the myriad strings – including bringing another club into the mix – that it took to consummate the trade.

“I suspect the excitement will only grow when people get to see him day-in and day-out,” Mozeliak said. “My approach when you bring in an ew player is to let them take a deep breath. Let them breathe – I’m not hovering over him, following him like a small puppy. I’m just letting him adjust to this camp.

“I saw him this morning as I got coffee,” Mozeliak continued, “and I just said, `Hey, how’s it going?’ He said, `It’s going great.’ That’s it. But I think he’s excited to be part of this camp, this team. It’s a big commitment on both sides.”

Arenado’s early arrival at camp also allowed him to bond with Nolan Gorman, one of the organizations’ top prospects, who probably had plenty of questions when the Cardinals traded for an established player at his position.

“The first few days I was in the same (hitting) group as him before camp started. We went golfing together, got to hang out,” Arenado said. “He’s an extremely talented player with big power and he’s going to help us win a lot of games.

“The trade stuff is a big adjustment,” Arenado admitted, “but he’s working hard at second base, third base, everywhere, and he seems all-in. He wants to contribute. That’s what you want on your team.”

That’s all Arenado wants to do, too.

Notes: The Cardinals had their annual pitcher’s fielding practice competition Wednesday. The team captained by Miles Mikolas and featuring Jordan Hicks, Matthew Liberatore, Tyler Webb and Tommy Parsons wound up winning. “The draft strategy was high upside pure upside early, with Hicks,” Mikolas said. “Then I wanted to get Webb in there, someone real solid, very fundamental. And then pick out some young guys to round out the team, some youth and bounciness.”

Yankees’ Judge heads on road still at 61 homers; 4 games left

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NEW YORK – Aaron Judge won’t break the American League home run record at Yankee Stadium, remaining at 61 as New York headed on the road for its final four regular-season games after a 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Judge struck out three times and walked once, disappointing a crowd of 44,332 that watched the Yankees regular-season home finale in rain for much of a chilly, blustery afternoon. New York finishes the regular season with four games at Texas, starting Monday night.

Judge took a called third strike from rookie Kyle Bradish leading off the first inning, then couldn’t check his swing and stranded the bases loaded when he struck out on a curveball in the second. He walked in the fifth and fanned against Bryan Baker in the seventh, dropping to 1 for 7 with six strikeouts, five walks and a hit batter since hitting No. 61 at Toronto on Wednesday night.

Trying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012, Judge tops the AL with 130 RBIs. His batting average fell to .311, four points behind league leader Luis Arraez of Minnesota.

Baltimore (82-77) guaranteed its first winning season since 2016. The Orioles went 52-110 last year and became the first team since at least 1900 to have a winning record one season after losing 110 or more.

AL East champion New York (97-61) took another hit to an injury-ravaged bullpen when Ron Marinaccio left while pitching to Jorge Mateo in the eighth. The Yankees will be without Clay Holmes until the playoffs because of rotator cuff inflammation, and Aroldis Chapman (3-4) was once again wild, walking three, including rookie Gunnar Henderson with the bases loaded, as Baltimore surged ahead in the seventh.

Chi Chi Gonzalez, a 30-year-old right-hander, made his Yankees debut after pitching for Minnesota and Milwaukee in the majors earlier this season. He threw to Jose Trevino, his batterymate at Oral Roberts in 2012 and ’13.

Gonzalez allowed one run, four hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings.

Bradish gave up one run – unearned – three hits and five walks in five-plus innings.

Logan Gillaspie (1-0) pitched a scoreless sixth in his first big league decision, Baker struck out five while getting six straight outs, and Dillon Tate got three outs for his fifth save.

Ryan Mountcastle had an RBI double in the first. Aaron Hicks scored from second base in the fifth when Bradish bounced a wild pitch and catcher Adley Rutschman threw the ball into center for an error.

Cedric Mullins reached on an infield hit starting the seventh against Chapman, has walked 28 in 35 1/3 innings. After Chapman walked three of four batters, Austin Hays followed with a sacrifice fly off Marinaccio.

WEB GEMS

Yankees 3B Josh Donaldson made a backhand grab on Jorge Mateo’s bases-loaded grounder in the sixth and from foul territory made a strong throw for the inning-ending out. … Hicks saved two runs with a sprinting catch on Terrin Vavra‘s slicing liner near the left-field line in the seventh.

FOR THE BOOKS

New York went 57-24 at home, matching most wins at new Yankee Stadium. Baltimore was 38-43 on the road, up from 20-61.

IN THE SEATS

The Yankees drew 3,136,207 for 78 home dates, down from 3,304,404 in 2019, the last season before two years of COVID restrictions. They had 16 sellouts, up from 12 in 2019.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: RHP Felix Bautista may not pitch for the rest of the season because of the sore left knee he injured Friday.

Yankees: Matt Carpenter (broken left foot on Aug 8) will not work out initially in the outfield at the Somerset, New Jersey, training camp this week. He was moved to the 60-day IL on Sunday, ruling him out of the Texas series. … RHP Miguel Castro (strained shoulder) could be activated Monday. … LHP Wandy Peralta, sidelined since Sept. 18 with back tightness, threw a bullpen session and will face hitters at Somerset on Tuesday or Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Dean Kremer (6-8, 3.17) starts Monday’s opener of a season-ending series against visiting Toronto and Jose Berrios (11-7, 5.37)

Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (6-3, 3.41) starts Monday in the opener of a four-game series at Texas and LHP Martin Perez (12-7, 2.93). After Wednesday, the Yankees have five off days before their Division Series opener at home on Oct. 11.