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NL Central Notes: Mikolas, Walker, Hill, Senzel

Miles Mikolas didn’t exactly suggest that he might give the Cardinals a so-called hometown discount in a new contract, even though the team’s spring camp is located in his actual hometown of Jupiter, Florida.  Mikolas noted to’s John Denton that when he returned to the big leagues after pitching in Japan from 2015-17, “I had four or five offers that were all about the same, and I chose the Cardinals because of the organization, the fanbase and because Spring Training is in my hometown.  There are always a lot of factors that play into it, and they’ll play into it if I have a decision to make down the road.”  Of course, Mikolas also noted that other teams play near Jupiter, and joked that he wouldn’t necessarily be tied to the area since “the fishing is still pretty good on the west coast [of Florida].”

Mikolas said that “everything about being a Cardinal is fantastic” and that he is happy with St. Louis.  As far as a long-term deal is concerned, “those decisions aren’t always up to the player.  My job is to go out there and get outs as efficiently as I can, and that’s what I’m going to focus on.”  After his initial deal with the Cardinals, Mikolas already agreed to one extension with the club, and 2023 is the final season of that four-year, $68MM pact.  The Cards’ pitching outlook is a major storyline hanging over the team’s season, as Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Montgomery are all slated to free agency next winter and Adam Wainwright will retire after the year.

More from around the NL Central…

  • Sticking with the Cardinals, the team is planning to focus all of Jordan Walker’s spring work on the outfield, rather than any reps at his former third base position.  Manager Oliver Marmol feels Walker would be able to adjust easily back to third base if a need arose, but the skipper told Lynn Worthy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “when you’re making the transition as a young player, it’s hard to…stay sharp at a lot of different positions.  With this transition of [Walker] playing the outfield for the first time, we’re solely focused on him improving there rather than put too much on his plate.”  One of baseball’s top prospects, Walker has already drawn a lot of buzz after his very first spring start, and Walker seems likely to make his big league debut in 2023 even though he has yet to play at the Triple-A level.  Though the St. Louis outfield is already pretty crowded, Walker’s position change became necessary since Nolan Arenado is locked in at the hot corner.
  • Rich Hill underwent a minor elbow procedure following the 2022 season, Pirates GM Ben Cherington told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.  Described as something of a clean-up surgery, it doesn’t appear that the procedure will impact Hill’s readiness for Opening Day, nor did it seem to hurt his free agent market — the Rangers, Red Sox, Orioles, and Angels all reportedly had interest in Hill before he signed a one-year, $8MM deal with Pittsburgh.  Hill turns 43 years old on March 11, and the 2023 season will be Hill’s 19th Major League campaign.
  • Reds manager David Bell shed some more light on Nick Senzel’s recovery timeline, telling reporters (including Bobby Nightengale Jr. of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that the hope is for Senzel to be playing in Spring Training games by the middle of March.  There was already an expectation that Senzel would be somewhat slowly ramped up to action while he returns to full fitness after offseason toe surgery, and a mid-March return date might allow for Senzel to be ready for Cincinnati’s Opening Day lineup.  The toe surgery is the latest in a long list of injury problems for the former top prospect, who has been limited to 273 MLB games since making his Major League debut in May 2019.
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