Cards' young pitching staff could lead team in 2014

JUPITER, Fla. -- Before the Cardinals took the field for their first official full-squad workout of the spring, manager Mike Matheny gathered players and staff inside the team's spring clubhouse to talk expectations and a goal left unfinished.

Matheny stressed the need to deflect outside expectations and assumptions. That means ignoring the prognosticators who expect the Cardinals to repeat as National League Central champs, and to make sure the players work to enter the season as a team, not merely a collection of talented individuals.

The message also stressed the necessity to put last year's success in the rearview mirror. Not only does it no longer matter, but resting on it could diminish the opportunity for growth.

"We have talent and a group of talented people, but the way this group developed into a team last year doesn't automatically translate into this year," Matheny said. "The talent is there. Talent is potential. And potential hasn't won one game for anybody. We have to start all over.

"We have a lot of expectation on us, which really doesn't matter because that's not something we put on ourselves. The expectations we put on ourselves are going to be more than anything put on us. But the way that we go about playing the game and how we focus coming together as a team, those are going to be our two main focuses."

Building that team culture will be a priority throughout Spring Training, and Matheny will rely upon several veteran players to help facilitate that process. He has encouraged players to watch the work ethic of those coming off career seasons, like Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter, who are two of the earliest players to arrive at the Cardinals' complex for workouts. That, Matheny said, is no coincidence.

A portion of Tuesday's meeting was used to introduce players to staff members and personnel. Matheny also took time to address the way the 2013 season finished. Reminding players of the disappointment they felt after losing the World Series to the Red Sox, he hopes, can be a motivator moving forward.

"As you let that go and you realize there are a whole lot of things to be proud of, we just had one series there where we didn't play the way that we wanted to play," Matheny said. "That's baseball. There are a lot of teams that could say the same thing. But to use that as a motivator, I think, is a very powerful tool. The past is one of our greatest teachers."

Ozzie offers pointers, takes grounders with infielders

MLBPAA honors Smith with lifetime achievement award

JUPITER, Fla. -- A guest instructor for the third straight spring, Ozzie Smith wasted no time Tuesday making himself available as a resource. In fact, he found his way straight into drills.

As infielders gathered to take ground balls on the first day of full-squad workouts, Ozzie grabbed his glove and made his way to third base. He and Matt Carpenter took turns fielding ground balls at the position, after which Smith made his way around the diamond to pass along pointers to various infielders.

He came, eager to be a resource.

"That's why we're here -- to be able to share with the young players and answer whatever questions they might have," said Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove winner and Hall of Fame shortstop. "It's my life and I spent most of my life doing this. To have the chance to come back and visit with the guys and enjoy the weather, being able to get away from that cold, is great. And it actually gives me a chance to exercise some muscles that I haven't exercised in a while."

Smith has talked hitting with Pete Kozma, who he encouraged not to pull the ball so much. He's talked defense with Jhonny Peralta, the newcomer at Smith's old position. He's talked baserunning and footwork and the Cardinal Way.

"I was thinking about it today as he was standing there talking to us, just how lucky we are to have an opportunity to have a guy like Ozzie Smith come out," Carpenter said. "Not only to hang out and be around him, but for him to teach us and impart some of his wisdom is a huge luxury of being in a great organization like the Cardinals. They not only have a lot of Hall of Famers, but they welcome them to teach so we can learn. It's just a real awesome thing."

Smith is working with an infield group that changed from a year ago. Carpenter is transitioning back to third after a spring of crash-course work at second. Peralta is in at short after signing as a free agent. Matt Adams and Kolten Wong are ready to make an impact as everyday players for the first time.

Smith said he expects this infield to be a stronger defensive unit than the one the Cardinals featured last season. The organization is simply pleased to have Smith put his fingerprints on the preparation.

"There are just some amazing things that he has been able to do in his career, but [he's] also just a great ambassador for the Cardinals," manager Mike Matheny said. "None of these guys have interest in coming just to be here and being a hood ornament for everyone to look at. We have work we have to do and things we have to accomplish to get better and what a resource having an Ozzie Smith around"

Worth noting

• Matheny said that while he has written out several potential lineups, he has yet to settle on a favorite. The only constant in all the drafts, he noted, is that the pitcher will bat ninth. Most likely, Carpenter (leadoff), Matt Holliday (No. 3) and Allen Craig (No. 4) will return to the batting-order position in which they spent most of their time last season.

• Kozma took ground balls at shortstop Tuesday, though the Cardinals intend to get Kozma work at various infield spots this spring. With Peralta now the team's everyday shortstop, Kozma becomes more valuable as a utility infielder. Even so, he has an uphill climb to crack the team's Opening Day roster. Mark Ellis and Daniel Descalso already give the Cardinals depth across the infield.

• A day after Kevin Siegrist skipped his bullpen session due to minor arm soreness, Matheny said Siegrist remains "in a good spot." It was the Cardinals who chose to keep Siegrist off the mound Monday, not a request by the left-handed reliever.

• Former Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds arrived in Jupiter, Fla., and will assist with outfield instruction during his stay at Cardinals camp. Edmonds currently works as a studio analyst for Fox Sports Midwest.