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Cardinals managerial staff set, few changes

Posted Thursday, November 17, 2011, at 7:52 AM

When Cardinals GM John Mozeliak introduced Mike Matheny on Monday he said the coaching staff would be set by the end of the week. He made good on his promise.

Wednesday afternoon the names were announced, and to tell the truth, with fewer changes than I anticipated.

Here's my take on the entire staff.

Mike Aldrete as bench coach: Since 2008, he has served as the Cardinals Assistant hitting coach. This is the one position I had really hoped to see someone with some managerial experience who could help to for lack of a better work, nurture, Matheny through his first season. His experience as hitting coach has put him in the mix in the past so he's no fool, just not who I expected. My money was on Chris Maloney, but his lack of exposure to the "big show" might not have made him a plausible option either.

Jose Oquendo returns as third base coach: I was glad to see Jose return to the team, but I had my doubts that he would. I understand he really liked Matheny as a player, so I'm sure that helped. With that being said, I don't expect him to remain a permanent fixture. I imagine he will, just as in the past, continue to interview for managerial openings around the league and one of these days, a new club might be willing to take a chance on him.

Mark McGwire as hitting coach: I'm happy to see Big Mac return for a third season. Hitting coach is a job that can take several seasons to get into a good groove and start to accomplish what you're out to do. During the 2011 season, it began to show. Especially, through the stretch, the team began playing contact ball (as opposed to let's see who can smack the scoreboard ball) and it really paid off. Sure, they still bring the long ball to the game with them, but it's not the only ball and that is key. McGwire understands that. He loves this team and if you ask anyone, they love him, too. I saw an interview recently, forgive me I can't recall where but I'll try to find it, where McGwire talked extensively about his understanding of and passion for the game and his love for teaching the young players (see David Freese). So far, so good, Big Mac. I have high hopes for him in the future.

Dave Duncan as pitching coach: Another fixture that is nice to see back. Many people believed he would be a key asset to Matheny as he learns the ropes this year. Duncan is great with veteran pitchers and thrives being able to correct flaws in an approach that can bring a seemingly finished pitcher back from the dead. This is definitely his strong point. He sees things when watching a pitcher work that many pitching coaches would never pick up on.

Derek Lilliquist as bullpen coach: He will be returning for a sophomore season in the bullpen this season. Despite the telephone fiasco, the men he coaches virtually carried the team through the NLDS and the NLCS. I believe that's worthy of another year. He also did a fantastic job with young bullpen arms this year (see Lance Lynn, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, etc.).

As a whole, I really see this as a good staff and a positive look to the future. Aside from Maloney, the two newest members of the staff, McGwire and Lilliquist, excelled in their positions this past year and I see no reason to expect anything different from them in 2012. With the return of Wainwright, regardless of how Pujols plays out, I think this team will remain competitive.

It's hard to tell what affect Matheny will have on this team, since we don't have anything to gauge it on, but as a former team leader I can only hope he will be fine. He seems very energetic and excited at this point, if he can translate that into wins and command the respect from his team, then there is every reason to feel optimistic.

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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