It’s that time of year again! Spring is in the air, and Spring Training is underway for MLB teams from all over. Some teams, like the Mets or the Tigers, go into their February and March workouts preparing for a long season and championship hopes. All teams have championship hopes, but there are teams that face a lot of uncertainty this time of year, and one of those teams is the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals face numerous obstacles and a lot of adversity before the season even starts this year. Ace pitcher Chris Carpenter is out at least til just before the All-Star Break and starter Mark Mulder won’t be ready for quite some time either. It just came out today that recently acquired starter Matt Clement, who is coming off of surgery himself, will not be ready on opening day either. It looks like Adam Wainwright will be the number one guy for the Cardinals, at least starting off the 2008 season.
The team will present a very different lineup in 2008, and nothing is set in stone for position players (except for Albert Pujols at first, Yadier Molina at catcher, and new third baseman Troy Glaus). Second base, shortstop, and all outfield positions are up for grabs. The departure of David Eckstein at short and Jim Edmonds in center field provides just that much more uncertainty for the Cardinals’ lineup this season. At second, last year’s underachiever, Adam Kennedy, will get a lot of looks. He’s coming off of knee surgery and has every shot at winning the position if he can produce. Deangelo Jiminez will get looks, as well.
In the outfield, Rick Ankiel heads into Spring Training as the main candidate for center field, with Chris Duncan likely holding down left field yet again. Right field, on the other hand, will be a different story. Juan Encarnacion, who I must say I feel absolutely horrible for, will miss the season after getting hit in the eye last year. Candidates for right field are non-roster invite Juan Gonzalez (yes, Juan Gonzalez), Brian Barton (a 25 year old speedy outfielder who has been through a big time surgery, himself), and even Ankiel.
Of course, all these plans can change if young star outfielder Colby Rasmus makes his way into the picture. Tony La Russa is not the type of manager who particularly enjoys using young talent, but Rasmus is of Edmonds’ mold. The last time La Russa really let a young player play was back in 2001 or so when he allowed the current first baseman to get some playing time. We all know how Pujols has turned out. Rasmus can be just as good, just in different ways.
As Spring Training continues, I’ll give some more in-depth reports (to the best of my ability), so keep checking back!