‘Unfinished Business’ Motivating Cardinal Dylan Carlson 2023

The injury destroyed much of Carlson’s offensive production in 2022. Now he’s healthy and ready to earn his way into the lineup.

ST. LOUIS – The good news for Dylan Carlson is that the thumb and wrist injuries that affected his performance last year for the Cardinals have healed, leaving him excited for what’s to come in 2023.

“There’s a lot of unfinished business left on my end,” Carlson said Sunday during the second day of winter warmups. “That definitely helped fuel what’s to come this year.”

Carlson entered 2022 after a strong debut that earned him a third-place finish in the 2021 Rookie of the Year voting, but an injury, which ultimately forced him onto the disabled list in September, prevented Carlson from reaching his goals.

This was the primary reason his home run total dropped from 18 to 8; why his RBI production dropped from 65 to 42 and his overall average from .266 to .236. Carlson hit just .207 from the left side of the plate.

“I don’t want to sit up here and make excuses,” Carlson said. “There was definitely a contribution, maybe some mechanical things that I don’t normally do, protecting that area of ​​the hand and the wrist, but I’m a competitor. I wanted to be outside. It was just something that kept lingering.

“We were able to take care of that and now I feel strong and healthy and ready to go… The strength is back to where it was in the past and even better. I’m definitely excited to get going.”

Carlson’s struggles have been similar to the injury issues that have hampered Tyler O’Neill’s performance, leaving both in positions where they will have to prove themselves in spring training to earn playing time.

The Cardinals enter this spring with plenty of outfield prospects, including top prospects Jordan Walker and Lars Nootbaar, but neither is guaranteed a starting spot.

“There is a lot of competition,” manager Oli Marmol said on Sunday. “No one has a job. They’re going to have to earn it and that’s the fun part. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of different combinations. It will be important that they show themselves ready. I’m looking forward.”

“The spring is always competitive, right up to when I first showed up,” he said. “It’s always an opportunity to show what you’ve been working on and show what you can do.”

While Carlson will be in Cardinals camp all spring, two of his fellow outfielders, Nootbaar and O’Neill, will be away participating in the World Baseball Classic. That could give Carlson a chance to get more at-bats.

“The goal is always to keep building and improving,” Carlson said. “It’s really nothing new. The goal is always to be better. Sometimes it comes through competition. I look at it as an opportunity to go out and show what I can do.

“I’m a competitor; I want to be out there playing every day.”

While Marmol can’t wait to watch all the outfielders, he’s especially excited for the 20-year-old Walker to be in camp for the first time and to watch him every day.

What are his expectations from Walker?

“We have a lot of guys who play outfield,” Marmol said. “He will compete for the position. He will wake up every morning hoping to beat someone.”

Other highlights of the second warm-up day:

* The number of Cardinals players who will miss spring training for the World Baseball Classic increased to at least 10 as catcher Ivan Herrera confirmed he will play for Panama and Andre Pallante for Italy.

One of the members of the American team, Nolan Arenado, is aware that this is a high number, but he thinks it could prove to be a positive when the regular season starts.

“To be honest, I remember in 2017 when I played in it I felt like it prepared me more for the season than spring training,” Arenado said. “It was hugely positive. The only thing that’s a little scary is how intense those games are in March when you’re not quite as fit as you normally are in April, but I felt more ready for the 2017 season than any other season.”

His teammate, both with the Cardinals and the American WBC team, Paul Goldschmidt, agreed.

“The intensity of playing those games, they’re playoff games, dare I say World Cup-like atmosphere,” Goldschmidt said. “As a player that does that, when you come back and start the regular season, you’re pretty much shut down physically and mentally. I was actually begging to be on the team again this year.”

* Arenado and Goldschmidt could compete in the later rounds of the tournament against Nootbar, whose dam is from Japan. All her relatives still live in that country, he said.

“It’s a huge honor, I’m really excited about it,” Nootbaar said. “My family over there, they go a little crazy for them. My mom is attacked by journalists who come to the house. She is currently on her media tour and I think she is enjoying the moment a bit.

“I’m just happy to do something special for my mom, really. I’m a mama’s boy so any time I can put a smile on her face and do that for her, that’s pretty cool.”

* The amateur international free agent signing period began Saturday and the Cardinals announced the signing of 17 players, from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Cuba and the Bahamas.

One of the players who agreed to terms was right-handed pitcher Reiner Lopez, a 6-foot-9 16-year-old from Venezuela.

Among the players expected to appear on Monday’s final day of warmups are Jack Flaherty, Walker, Paul DeJong and new catcher Willson Contreras.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains


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