Lance Lynn Looks Like a New Man Upon Arrival at Spring Training

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COMMENTARY | It's a good thing players wear numbers on their jerseys. Otherwise, St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Lance Lynn might have been thrown out of early spring-training workouts.

If having his hair cut short and his scruffy beard shaved off wasn't enough to throw off coaches and teammates, the fact that there seemed to be about half as much of him surely did. Lynn flat out looks like a completely different guy than the one who wore number 31 for St. Louis at the end of the 2012 season.

Lynn told reporters that he lost about 20 pounds over the winter, but I'm guessing it was closer to 40. His paunch is completely gone. Now his build more closely resembles lanky fellow starting pitcher Adam Wainwright than former St. Louis lefty Ray "Burger" King. Hopefully, the results on the mound will be similar to Wainwright, a consistent major-league winner who has twice finished in the top three in National League Cy Young balloting.

Although he won 18 games last season for the Cardinals, Lynn obviously lacked stamina during his first year as a starter. He was spectacular over the first half with an 11-4 record and a 3.41 ERA. After the All-Star break, Lynn was 7-3 but with a 4.32 ERA. He gave up 1.233 walks and hits per inning in the first half and 1.438 per inning in the second half of the season.

Manager Mike Matheny was clearly displeased. He yanked Lynn from the rotation and stuck him in the bullpen late in the season. Afterward, on a couple of occasions, Matheny publicly criticized Lynn for pouting about the demotion. Tensions were so high that I thought there was a decent chance the Redbirds would try to deal Lynn over the offseason.

With ace Chris Carpenter apparently out for the season, I'm glad the team hung on to Lynn. He's going to be a key guy in the effort to try to replace Carpenter. So it's a great sign that the 25-year-old hurler decided to turn over a new leaf and take keeping in shape more seriously.

Lynn has a lot of talent and very good stuff. But he's seemed to lack focus and dedication in the early part of his career. It obviously took a lot of work and dedication to get from where he was to where he is. So, hopefully, this is a sign that he's going to make good on his opportunity to be a solid No. 2 or 3 starter for years to come.

Another good sign in Camp Cardinals is that lefty Jaime Garica, whom was shut down last year because of shoulder troubles, seems to be feeling and performing better after arriving early at spring training. In video of him working out, Garica seemed to be throwing free and easy on flat ground.

No one is going to completely fill Carpenter's sizable spikes. But if the other returning starters can pitch to their potential, the Redbirds should be all right in 2013.

Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.

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