ST. LOUIS–A year ago at this time, Matthew Liberatore was a left-handed pitching prospect with a high ceiling in his first spring training camp with the Cardinals after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in the Randy Arozarena trade.
One year later, all of those same things are true again, with a few tweaks. Liberatore’s invite this year comes with the possibility he could see the majors this season, if not right out of camp, then at some point. His appearance also comes as the entire baseball world knows what Arozarena did in the 2020 postseason, carrying Tampa all the way to the AL pennant.
You have to give up something good to get something good. The Cardinals wanted Liberatore then and think highly of him now, but Arozarena’s performance after leaving the franchise was enough to prompt Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak to say the organization would re-examine how it evaluates its own players.
Liberatore told reporters Wednesday he did watch the 2020 postseason, but he’s competing with the man in the mirror, not Arozarena.
“I don’t feel like it ever crossed my mind, ‘Oh that the guy I got traded for, I have expectations now that I have to live up to,” he said during a Zoom session. “I wish him all the best, I want to see him go out there and have success and when it comes to what I need to take care of, I’m looking in the mirror everyday and competing against that guy so I don’t feel like there’s any added pressure on me or added expectations because of the way he performanced.”
While the satellite camp experience may be something of a mystery to fans who couldn’t watch minor league games or track statistics, Liberatore described his time there in 2020 as invaluable. In Springfield and then briefly at Busch Stadium, he faced hitters like Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong, as they were getting back into game shape after going on the COVID list, getting ready to return to St. Louis. It forced him to make adjustments facing the same opponent over an extended period of time and also gave him the kind of feedback he couldn’t get during a regular minor league season.
“In the alternate site, I could face a guy and he gets a hit off me and I go straight up to him and say why’d you swing at that, what happened?”