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Derrick Goold: Welcome to 'Camp Trust.' These 10 questions face Cardinals in pressurized spring.

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Baseball

JUPITER, Fla. — It is common for spring training to develop a theme, sometimes suitable for T-shirts that fade by April and sometimes as simple as the sign ace Chris Carpenter once taped to his locker to answer daily questions about his recovery from injury with a timeless camp mantra: “Progressing nicely.”

And sometimes they’re even shorter. Last year, in those sunny moments before an overcast 91-loss season, officials broadcast the word “opportunity.” Not too long ago the Cardinals said spring training would be defined by “competition.” This year, the description already revealed itself through repetition.

Trust.

“You’re going to hear it a whole lot,” manager Oliver Marmol said.

Calendar pages removed from last year’s failure, the Cardinals begin this year’s spring training Wednesday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex with the first official workout for pitchers and catchers on Valentine’s Day. Full-squad workouts begin Feb. 19. The first exhibition games are Feb. 24. The Cardinals are returning to the field following their first last-place finish in three decades, and they are charged with avoiding their first back-to-back losing seasons with a full schedule in nearly 70 years.

This spring, there’s more than pollen choking the air — there’s pressure.

 

As Marmol discussed offseason moves the Cardinals made and described spring training plans, he repeatedly used the word “trust.” He said it was important to populate the clubhouse with seasoned players who “trust” each other to pull in the same direction, with experienced players who can “trust” inevitable struggles will end. An expanded staff means players can “trust” they can get more time with coaches if wanted. Left unsaid is how ownership’s commitment to the front office and dugout leaders affirms its “trusts” this is the group to pilot the Cardinals back to their brand. They’re asking fans to trust them, too.

“It’s about getting that amount of buy-in from everybody (in the clubhouse),” Marmol said. “Do you really care about the St. Louis Cardinals and this team, or do you care about yourself? I’ve had plenty of time this offseason revolved around getting guys to buy in to one common vision and one common language and that’s trusting each other.”

The Cardinals expected to report to their complex in Jupiter, Florida, and see buildings leveled and a new, modern player development headquarters rising by 2025. That did not happen. Planned construction has been delayed by at least a year. But, out of sight, some demolition started. The Cardinals’ clubhouse was cleared, multiple officials described. Some walls were knocked down, gear removed, and lockers dismantled, maybe even some frustrations vented on them.

When it became clear the Cardinals would use the same old building this spring and return to that room, the clubhouse had to be rebuilt.

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