JUPITER, Fla. -- Free of shoulder discomfort and past the point of rehab, left-hander Jaime Garcia stepped onto a side mound at the Cardinals' Florida complex to throw his first bullpen session of Spring Training on Friday.
The event is hardly unique, but for Garcia, it was nevertheless notable. He had thrown off a mound only a handful of times -- first in October, again in the weeks leading up to camp -- since undergoing season-ending surgery on his left shoulder last May. A year ago, Garcia arrived at Spring Training hopeful that his shoulder would hold up. This year, he knows that it will.
"It is definitely a good feeling, but at the same time, it's something I know I have to stay on top of and not let become an issue," said Garcia, who went 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in nine starts before being shut down last year. "Shoulder surgery is shoulder surgery. They're not very easy, but I worked really hard this offseason to be in the best shape I could be and everything went really well. Now I just try to take it one day at a time again and listen to my body."
Neither Garcia, nor manager Mike Matheny, could say whether Garcia's Spring Training workout plan will be modified at all. That's because much of it will be dictated on how Garcia's shoulder responds. His readiness to follow a regular offseason workout plan, however, gives him a chance at a "normal" spring.
"He's on track with where he needs to be and we'll just need to adapt," Matheny said. "I'm not going to put the pressure on him saying that he is going to be with everyone else here for the rest of the way out. If a little alteration needs to be made, we're not scared to make that alteration."
After stating that he was "very optimistic" about being fully game-ready by Opening Day, Garcia spoke about the differences he can already note post-surgery. After two years of having to alter his mechanics to compensate for shoulder pain, Garcia returns to the mound feeling like himself and looking like it, too.
"When you have injuries that come up, you try to change your mechanics, you try to change your arm angles so you don't have pain in your shoulder," Garcia said. "It was a difficult thing for me, because I was still being effective and still going out there and giving us a chance, so it was difficult for me. That's why a lot of times you don't say anything. You just keep grinding through it.
"But this is a different story. Now it feels better and it gives you that relief in your mind that they fixed everything that needed to be fixed in there. I had the surgery and now I need to stay on top of it so it doesn't become an issue again."
Craig ready for new assignment in outfield
JUPITER, Fla. -- With no restrictions related to the foot injury that cost him the final month of the regular season and two rounds of the postseason, Allen Craig arrived at Spring Training ready to get to work in the outfield.
Though right field is not an unfamiliar position for Craig, it is not the position at which he logged the majority of his playing time over the last two seasons. But with Carlos Beltran now in pinstripes and Matt Adams targeted for first base, Craig finds himself entering the season as an outfielder.
He prepared for the new assignment by incorporating more plyometrics work into his offseason plan. "Becoming a better athlete," Craig said, was the focus behind the priority in improving his movement.
"I'm always trying to get better, but I think sometimes when you have an injury, you have to start with the basics and get back to what it takes to become a good athlete and working harder to get to where you want to be," Craig said. "I feel like I'm better for it right now. ... It's made me work hard with my body and make sure I'm in shape and really getting back to the basics."
Craig will not abandon his first baseman's glove entirely. He wants to get some spring defensive work at the position, as do the Cardinals, who know Craig's defensive assignment could change depending upon the rest of the roster's makeup. The majority of work, however, will be concentrated in the outfield. He has made 129 career outfield starts, including 41 last season.
Motte makes progress, tosses from 120 feet
JUPITER, Fla. -- Twelve pitchers were designated to throw during the Cardinals' workouts on Friday, including rehabbing reliever Jason Motte. But he did not get on the mound like the other 11, rather taking his throwing session to the outfield grass of Field 1 for the latest step forward in his rehab program.
For the first time since November, Motte played flat-ground catch at a distance of 120 feet. He intends to do so again on Monday -- assuming his arm responds well -- and will determine the next step after that.
Following a prescribed break from his throwing program, Motte has been playing catch for three-and-a-half weeks now. He has challenged himself from distances of 60, 90 and 120 feet and has had no setbacks along the way.
As for a long-term plan, there is not a detailed one. Motte's progression will be determined by how he feels, with no insistence that he reach certain benchmarks by certain dates. With that being the case, Motte is not yet sure when he will progress to throwing off the mound.
"You want to take your time and make sure that you're strong and that you're ready to do what you need to do out there," Motte said. "It's cliché and whatever, but I'm really just taking it one day at a time because that's all I can do. It's all about doing the steps. It's a process. It's a slow process."
Avoiding the distraction of setting time-specific goals, Motte said he has not thought much about when he'll throw his first pitch since 2012. He conceded that it is unlikely that he'd be ready to break camp with the team, a comment that is not much of a surprise given the typical 12-16 month recovery time from Tommy John surgery. Motte underwent the procedure last May.
"It's the middle of February and I'm tossing at 120 feet," Motte said. "To be on the mound in a big league ballgame in six weeks from tossing would be a pretty good feat for anyone. Especially coming back from this, you don't want to just try it out, see how it works. The whole point of all this is to get healthy and be able to pitch and be effective and help these guys. Opening Day may be a possibility ... but I wouldn't think [so]."
• Jim Fregosi, who managed the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate in Louisville from 1983-85, died at the age of 71 on Friday morning, days after suffering a stroke. Fregosi managed current Cardinals third-base coach Jose Oquendo on that Louisville club in '84 and later managed Matheny for a season in Toronto.
"Obviously, every manager I ever had and every coach I ever had made an impact," Matheny said. "I'm sorry to hear that news and my condolences go out to his family."
• Craig, Pete Kozma and Peter Bourjos were among the latest position players to report to camp early. All three participated in light workouts on Friday before moving indoors, where Bourjos dominated on the clubhouse's new ping-pong table. After defeating several of his new teammates, Bourjos was presented with a faux championship belt.
• Ballpark Village, the new development going up across the street from Busch Stadium, has a target opening date of March 27, Cardinals president Bill DeWitt III said on Friday. The project will not be fully completed by that date, but several areas will be open to the public by Opening Day.
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.