By Rob Rains
Matt Carpenter has a message for any Cardinals fan wondering if the team has done enough this winter to narrow the gap with the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central race.
“If you’re not excited about where this team is headed, you need to change the way you’re thinking,” Carpenter said. “It feels different this year than in years past. … There’s a reason for excitement. There’s a reason the pulse around here feels a little different.
“We’ve got a lot to prove still and we have to earn what our goals are but this is as excited as I’ve ever been to start a season and there’s good reason for that.”
Carpenter has a long history with two of the people he is most excited about who have joined the Cardinals this winter.
He has known Paul Goldschmidt since they were opponents in high school and then in college as well, when Carpenter was at TCU and Goldschmidt at Texas State, before they became major-league opponents the last several years.
He has known Jeff Albert, the Cardinals’ new hitting coach, since 2009 when they were together at the organization’s Palm Beach farm team.
Ask Carpenter to speak about the qualities of both, and what their additions will mean for the Cardinals, and it’s like opening a vein and letting the blood start spurting out.
“I can only echo what you’ve heard already,” Carpenter said of Goldschmidt. “We’ve got a really good player but also a really good person and teammate coming in here. It’s important to have a guy like that who walks into your clubhouse and instantly becomes your best player.
“But he also comes with high character and a very high work ethic and sets a good example. We’ve got a lot of young guys who are going to come in here and watch him and watch him with a very careful eye and see everything he does. They are going to pay attention and you want a guy who is going to set that example and do it in the right way and we’ve got him. He’s going to make us better.”
Albert does not bring as high a profile to the Cardinals as Goldschmidt but that doesn’t decrease what his addition means, Carpenter said.
“Jeff is a great guy who cares a lot and those are two great qualities in a coach,” Carpenter said. “From a pure baseball swing standpoint he is as good as anybody I’ve ever been around at knowing the biomechanics of a swing, how it works and how to take some of the information gathered upstairs and make hitters understand it.
“I’m really looking forward to what he’s going to bring us. He’s one of the underlooked acquisitions we made who is going to have a huge impact on our lineup.
“One thing I love about Jeff is he’s all about making the swing as efficient as possible so you can avoid some swings and misses and puts an emphasis on putting the ball in play and have some tough at-bats. That’s what really great hitters should strive to do and I think his philosophy is going to resonate with the group.”
Carpenter is more than happy to move back to third base to make room for Goldschmidt, and what that move creates for him, an opportunity.
“I kind of have a chip on my shoulder for that position,” Carpenter said. “I’ve got something to prove over there. I want to show our team but also the rest of baseball that I can do a job there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Just as he is looking forward to the start of spring training in a few weeks.
“I can’t say enough how fired up I am about what I think this group is going to be able to do,” he said.
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