PHOENIX -- A month-long promotion to the Cardinals last summer provided Matt Adams with clear direction on where he needed to improve. As a result, Adams tailored his winter and spring work accordingly, and, as the first baseman said on Monday, he is hopeful that it all leads to a successful transition into a bench role.
Beginning with his offseason work in Pennsylvania, Adams has focused on improving his reads of offspeed pitches. He hit off a curveball machine all winter so that he could get used to the rotation of the pitch. Once he started getting a heavy dose of changeups in Spring Training, he and hitting coach John Mabry tailored drills to help Adams be better prepared for that pitch, as well.
"The curveball machine and the drills that Mabry and I did helped out this spring," Adams said. "It's definitely going well. I'm picking up the spin better."
Adams' education hasn't ended with the start of the regular season, though now it will also feature another component. A full-time player throughout his Minor League climb, Adams has begun to formulate a plan that will aid him as a bench player.
It will include a heavy dose of video analysis, something that both Mabry -- who made a career out of being a part-time player -- and veteran Ty Wigginton emphasized when Adams approached them about how to handle the role. Adams took only three pinch-hit at-bats during his time on the big league roster last season.
"I'm going to get in here early to do some video work looking mostly at setup guys and closers since those are going to be the guys that I'll be facing coming off the bench," Adams said. "It's just going to be big for me to stay sharp and get my work done in the cage so I can stay fresh and stay sharp. I did a little bit of video last year, but this year I definitely need to hit it harder."
Kozma honored with first Opening Day nod
PHOENIX -- Though the Cardinals' 25-man roster does not feature any first-time big leaguers, it does include six players who had never previously been a part of Opening Day in the Majors.
One of those -- shortstop Pete Kozma -- was in manager Mike Matheny's starting lineup on Monday. Another two (Ryan Jackson and Matt Adams) had a place on the bench, and a pair (Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly) were available in the bullpen. The sixth, Shelby Miller, will make his season debut on Saturday, when he starts against the Giants.
"It's nice to start here from the beginning and then work toward where we went last year," said Kozma, whose parents were in attendance. "I feel like I'm the quarterback of the infield. It means a lot to have that responsibility."
Somewhat unusual is the fact that four of those six players were a part of Cardinals playoff rosters before ever being in the Majors on Opening Day. Rosenthal, Kelly and Miller all pitched out of the 'pen for St. Louis in October. Kozma took the reins as the starting shortstop after Rafael Furcal sustained a season-ending elbow injury.
After Monday, they can all tout another career first.
"It's a little different than every other Opening Day I've ever been a part of from the Minors to college," Kelly said. "To be a part of this team is special. I'm really excited to get out there and the nervousness and excitement, once I can throw my first pitch, it'll all go away. The butterflies will go down."
Cards bullpen in flux while Motte mends
PHOENIX -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is accustomed to closing games with a formulaic sequence of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. But with Motte opening the season on the disabled list, Matheny will need to find late-inning stability without his closer.
Matheny has already announced that he'll turn to Boggs in save situations. How Matheny will bridge the gap between his starter and Boggs, though, remains unsettled. Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal are likely to factor in as setup men, though Matheny shied away from designating roles for anyone aside from Boggs.
One of Matheny's trickiest maneuvers could be finding the right spot to use Randy Choate, who was acquired over the winter to fill the role of lefty specialist. Choate, however, struggled to get outs over the final three weeks of Spring Training, and bringing him in for one batter could force Matheny to use three of his seven relievers in one inning.
"We'll feel our way through it," Matheny said. "It's going to be tough knowing that spot when to use him when we've got some right-handers getting lefties out. Do we have the kind of depth that we can pull one of those guys out for one hitter and burn up another guy? There's going to be some interesting dynamics. We'll get him in there when we feel like it's going to be a pivotal point and our best chance to use him."
Joe Kelly opens the season as the Cardinals' long reliever, though Matheny has said he also doesn't want to pigeonhole Kelly into that role. He, along with Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski, are likely to start the year pitching in middle relief.
• Third baseman David Freese told manager Mike Matheny via text on Monday that he had another good workout down at the Cardinals' Jupiter (Fla.) complex. Matheny said Freese is tentatively scheduled to play in extended spring training games on Friday and Saturday, if not earlier.
"We're going to push him a little bit and see how he responds," said Matheny, who added that the club is still hopeful Freese will be activated off the disabled list for the April 8 home opener.
• According to BaseballReference.com, Monday's season opener marked the 20,000th game in St. Louis franchise history. That string of games goes back to 1882, when the Cardinals were known as the St. Louis Brown Stockings.
• Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who now works in an official capacity with Major League Baseball, was in attendance for Monday's game at Chase Field.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.