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New manager not worried about La Russa’s shadow
JUPITER, FLA. (AP) - Mike Matheny fields the question that comes pretty much on a daily basis with the dexterity of the four-time Gold Glove catcher he used to be.
What Matheny promises is that he will work nonstop to keep the St. Louis Cardinals among baseball’s elite, just as he did when top-notch defense was enough to get him in the lineup despite a bat that was so-so at best. He isn’t interested in comparisons with La Russa, who abruptly retired a few months ago with another World Series title and just a handful of wins away from being the second-winningest manager in history.
“My family’s down here now and they’ve been great understanding that I’m going to be good for about dinner and that’s it,” Matheny said. “We’re at the period right now.”
The 41-year-old Matheny senses no satisfaction with players who won it all last fall, noting that most reported well ahead of Friday’s first full-squad workout. Beforehand, he told players they’d work hard and work smart, and urged them just to concern themselves with things they can control.
“We’re going to be efficient, we’re not going to keep you guys out here all day, we’re not going to be standing still ever,” Matheny said. “It’s about the work ethic and the efficiency. I’m beating up a couple terms, excellence and respect. We go about our business that way, there’s going to be good things at the end.”
“There’s a lot of guys here with things to prove,” he said, “and jobs to earn.”
Among the first-day observers was Dick Phelps, who owned the Brewers’ Class A team in Stockton, Calif., in 1992 when Matheny was a 21-year-old prospect on the team. Phelps remembers seeing leadership qualities in the young catcher, and also hooked up Matheny with agent John Boggs.
The first workout featured a bit of irony, with Adam Wainwright throwing batting practice on the same field just a few days past the one-year anniversary of the elbow injury that sidelined him all of 2011. Wainwright totaled 39 wins in 2009-10.
“I looked at one of the pitching coaches before I started warming up and I said, `What day is this?’ He said, `I don’t know.’ I said, `It has to be about the same time and I’m going out on the same field,’” he said. “This gives me a chance to conquer it. This gives me a chance to get over that.”
Day 1 wasn’t overly serious business. Players had time to sign a few autographs and outfielder Lance Berkman lightened the mood by wearing a fake, dark brown mustache. .
By Tom Fitton
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White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow