MRI exams on Adam Wainwright's sore elbow and Michael Wacha's shoulder both came back clean, and the team anticipates they'll be 100 percent for spring training. Those two and six-time All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who missed seven weeks with a torn thumb ligament and had his postseason cut short by an oblique injury, are expected to benefit most from rest.
General manager John Mozeliak said Monday that Wainwright ''felt great'' in his last start. Of Wacha, the GM said ''even the doctors were a little surprised how well he looked.''
The front office believes the Cardinals can contend for a fifth straight deep October run next year without making significant upgrades. The rotation is deep with or without lefty Jaime Garcia, an unknown quantity after undergoing tricky thoracic outlet surgery, and the lineup with emerging Kolten Wong and Matt Adams figures to be more consistent.
Jay's procedure appears routine with a recovery period of 6-8 weeks. The elbow began bothering Jay in late July but he finished strong by cutting down on batting practice cuts.
''Needless to say, the results were fabulous,'' Mozeliak said.
Jay also had his strongest season defensively and heads to spring training as the starter. Last season, he had to wrest the job from newcomer Peter Bourjos.
Right field is up for grabs between rookies Randal Grichuk, who emerged down the stretch, and Oscar Taveras, their perennial top prospect. The team wasn't pleased with Taveras' conditioning and lackadaisical defense and are sending him to the team's spring complex in Jupiter, Florida, to train for a month and then to winter ball in the Dominican Republic.
''I think he can be a star,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''He's never been pushed and never naturally had that passion.''
Mozeliak pointed out Taveras got a lot of starting time when he was first called up, but didn't do enough to keep the job.
''Oscar got every opportunity,'' the GM said. ''And guess what, he didn't perform.''
Matheny was unwavering in his support of closer Trevor Rosenthal, who had control issues in his first full season in that role. Mozeliak, too, although he noted: ''He certainly gave me an ulcer.''
Matheny said his confidence in his players has been interpreted as ''blind faith,'' and added, ''I'm not going to deny that.'' They lived up to that faith, overcoming injuries to Molina, Garcia, Allen Craig and Kevin Siegrist to repeat as NL Central champions, then beat the Dodgers in the division series.
The manager was criticized for game management decisions that backfired in the postseason, with the insertion of Wacha in the ninth inning of Game 5 at the top of the list. He didn't seem to mind too much after the fact. He said would call for Wacha out of the bullpen again even though he'd been idle throughout the postseason.
''I really liked Michael in that situation,'' Matheny said. ''I was quick to point out I put him in a tough spot.''
Matheny anticipated no coaching changes. Bench coach Mike Aldrete has been mentioned for various openings.