Notes: Springer makes up for lost time
Reliever injured during most of previous stint with Cards
JUPITER, Fla. -- Russ Springer figures he owes the Cardinals about half a season. But he'd rather give them a whole one.
Springer, who made 17 appearances for St. Louis in 2003, is back with the Redbirds after three years with the Houston Astros. He missed the middle two-thirds of his one Cards campaign due to elbow troubles. Now he's looking to make up for lost time.
"I'm loyal to a fault, and I feel like I owe them about 70-some games," Springer said. "I've been feeling good physically and I just thought everything was a good fit to come back here. They know what I can do when I'm healthy. I just want to pitch a healthy season for them and give them what they need."
But while pride and loyalty were significant motivations in Springer's decision to rejoin the Redbirds, neither was his top consideration. Priority one is family, and specifically his 8-year-old autistic son, Jake. The younger Springer will attend the Judevine Center for Autism in St. Louis, a facility that benefited him greatly during dad's last tenure with the Cardinals.
"It's a chance for my son to get back in the therapy program he was in before, which is the one that's worked the best for him in the past," Springer said. "And that was a big part of the decision, because he's kind of hit a wall as far as improving and hasn't done much in the last couple years. The best he's ever done was in St. Louis.
"So a combination of that, going back to the world champions, and obviously this is the [cream] of the crop as far as organizations."
The Cards will be counting on Springer to provide the kind of effective relief he gave the Astros for much of his tenure in Houston. Springer posted an ERA of 3.95 as an Astro despite pitching half his games in Minute Maid Park.
But his new club is also counting on him to join Jason Isringhausen in offering guidance to some of the youngsters in the relief corps. According to manager Tony La Russa, Springer's role will be as prominent in the clubhouse as on the mound.
"Absolutely," La Russa said. "In a lot of ways, on and off the field. He's a guy that guys watch and can learn from."
Springer relishes that task.
"I don't know when I quit being the young guy and started being the old guy," Springer said. "But I love young guys that want to pick my brain, because I was lucky to have that when I came up. I had a lot of veteran guys that kind of took me under their wing in the bullpen. The bullpen is a different world. I look forward to talking baseball and situations with these bullpen guys, because they are young."
Benes is back: Right-hander Alan Benes finally hung it up after an injury-plagued career this winter. For some players, especially those denied the chance at a full career due to injuries, that's a tough decision. For Benes, it was a slam dunk.
"It was very easy," said Benes, who joined the Cardinals as a special assistant to general manager Walt Jocketty. "I have absolutely no regrets. I have no second thoughts, no desire to still be playing. ... The last two or three years of my career were really a struggle."
In his new, post-career career, Benes will serve the Cards in a couple of different capacities. For now, he's helping as a coach in spring. Later in camp, he'll help coach Minor League players, and then he'll serve in a role that combines scouting, being a roving instructor and whatever else the organization may need.
"It will give me a grasp of the whole thing, the whole situation rather than just focusing on one thing," said Benes. "It's neat for me to have that opportunity to kind of get an idea of the front office side of it a little bit and also the coaching side of it a little bit."
For the Cardinals, it was a no-brainer to keep Benes in the fold once his playing career came to a close. He's long been one of the favorite players of La Russa, Jocketty and practically the whole organization.
"In all the years that I've managed, I've never had a better teammate than Alan Benes," La Russa said. "I've had some, [like] Darryl Kile and Carney Lansford, that are in that tied-for-first category. But Alan was as good as anybody we've ever had on our club. It's a huge plus for our organization that he's with us. He's got a lot that he can bring, whether it's the kids or the Major Leaguers."
Latest arrival: The Cards had one arrival on Friday. Aaron Miles showed up for his first day of Florida workouts, fresh off a winter in which he received his first million-dollar contract.
Other coaches: Cal Eldred is expected to join the Cardinals as a special instructor this spring, and Larry Walker will expand on the part-time role he had last spring. Willie McGee, however, is not likely to reprise his role as a special instructor from past springs.
Quotable: "I think the other really neat competition that's going to happen besides our rotation is going to be Skip Schumaker, Jolbert Cabrera, John Rodriguez, Eli [Marrero]. There's not a lot of spots for those guys. It's going to make for good Spring Training games when you've got guys playing for something." -- La Russa
Weather report: A cool, windy day at least came off without any rain on Friday. The unseasonable chill is expected to continue on Saturday, with morning temps starting off in the 40s or even upper 30s, but highs in the mid-60s by the afternoon. No rain is expected.
Coming up: Saturday brings another day of pitcher-catcher workouts, likely starting in the vicinity of 9:30 a.m. ET. Position players report on Monday and begin working out on Tuesday.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.