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Hello, 2019..

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MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

A new year. A cliché, yet pretty fine time to evaluate our lives and decide what we could do to make 2019 one of our best years yet. Sometimes, we have to take action to better ourselves, and this is totally normal. Adopting a new exercise routine, dropping an old habit, or mending relationships are common plans to start years. I am hopeful that if you have any of these - or any goal for the upcoming year in general - that you are successful.

In the same time that we plan to make changes, we should also keep in mind of the areas in life that make us happy. Family and friends rank high on my list, as do the people I work with and those I am connected to through work. My beloved black lab Hank, who is always around to watch me write stories, deserves a mention. A passion of mine that not many know (the many that I know on the internet, that is) is being around livestock. Cattle, especially. I spent an uncountable number of days working around the farm throughout my childhood, all the way to now, as I work at area auctions throughout the week. I’ve discovered that driving home from work on summer evenings with KMOX bumping through the speakers is quite enjoyable.

If I had to choose my favorite pastimes though, that would be watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball. I would bet a lot of us share that in common. After all, it is our interest for the game that unites us here today.

I remember thinking this in 2017 and 2018, too, but I am really looking forward to watching the Cardinals in 2019. I’m growing anxious to see how the lineup flows with Paul Goldschmidt in the mix. It looks very good on paper (a bit right-handed, maybe), and I hope to see it live up to the print. I’m excited for Dexter Fowler to open the season with a starting job. I wish to see him succeed and begin to erase some of the negativity surrounding his first two seasons in St. Louis. The age-ignoring Yadier Molina amazes me, and I definitely cherish the times I get to watch him play in person. A plan to catch him and the rest of the Cards on the road this summer is already being brainstormed; it’s going to be a Saturday, I know, so I can fittingly rock my new blue jersey.

The bench is an area that needs another coat of polish. Having a stacked cast to play behind solid starting core is a key in sustaining success across such a long schedule. Jose Martinez, Tyler O’Neill, Jedd Gyorko, and Francisco Pena make for a strong bench, providing some pop and speed. Nevertheless, having a left-handed bat in that area would really round off some holes. I had a feeling that either Matt Adams or Daniel Descalso would re-join the club; that won’t be the case though, as Adams is back with the Nationals and Descalso is a member of the Cubs. And the waiting and guessing continue.

The pitching is already exciting me, with options galore. As for the starting rotation, Miles Mikolas will return for the second (and, currently, the final) year of his contract and figures to get the nod for Opening Day against the Brewers. I’m interested to see if he can top how well he performed last season. Behind him, there is the trio of Carlos Martinez, Jack Flaherty, and Michael Wacha. Manager Mike Shildt seemed to like using Martinez out of the bullpen, but I think it is a safe bet that we will see him every fifth day. Flaherty was surprisingly dependable in his first full season and garnered attention for the Rookie of the Year Award. Wacha pitched well in his limited time on the field, and we can view his injury-dampened season in a positive light; it was an oblique strain - and not his shoulder - that held him to 15 starts. Entering spring camp, Adam Wainwright is likely the favorite to claim the fifth spot in the rotation. Wainwright signed a one-year deal to stay with St. Louis early in the offseason.

Looking at the bullpen, the Cardinals will add left-hander Andrew Miller to the mix. Miller, who has worked with the Tigers, Marlins, Red Sox, Orioles, Yankees, and Indians in his career, signed a two-year contract with St. Louis in late December. While it’s still unclear what his role will be, it’s easy to say that Miller will pack a punch in the back of the bullpen. How many additional left-handers the team carries will depend (at least partially) on how Miller is used. If Miller is the team’s closer, the Cardinals will opt for at least one other lefty - maybe even two. Brett Cecil is there, as are Chasen Shreve, Tyler Webb, and Austin Gomber.

Checking in on the rest of bullpen, Jordan Hicks, Luke Gregerson, Daniel Poncedeleon, and Dominic Leone will work to solidify their relief jobs. The Johns - John Brebbia and John Gant - remain options, and young guns Dakota Hudson, Ryan Helsley, and Alex Reyes are lurking. Keep in mind that those who do not start the season in St. Louis will likely be in Memphis. Injuries happen, and particularly with the shorter, 10-day disabled list, it is easier now than ever to swap taxed pitchers in favor of new, fresh(er) arms.

We are about six weeks away from the day that pitchers and catchers report for spring training, and the first exhibition game will follow on Saturday, February 23. For those fans in the St. Louis area, the Winter Warm-Up will be held on January 19-21 at the Hyatt Regency. For the fans away from St. Louis but still in the region, the Cardinals Caravan will hit the road the same weekend. There will be a number of stops in Missouri and Illinois, with a few in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. If you are able to attend any of these events, I definitely encourage you to. It is always a great way to kick off your year on a high note and get back in the spirit of the sport.

The whole Viva El Birdos staff is ready to get the season started. We are thankful that you continue to visit the site and give us a reason to write each and every day. Without somebody to read our work, there would be no reason to do it. I have several ideas for the site this year, such as more roundtables featuring all writers, further connecting the staff with the community, and just generally improving your visits to VEB.

And I’d love if you stuck around to help make 2019 one of our best years yet.