What a wonderful weekend. Baseball has made its return, albeit in exhibition games where the scores don't mean much (though, as the Yankees found out, you can't call them meaningless games). We get to hear and see the crack of the bat and fastballs blazing, though, so it's definitely better than the non-baseball state we've been in since late October.
It is a good thing for the Cards that the games don't count, though, as they've dropped their first two Grapefruit League games, losing to the Marlins 8-3 and the Red Sox 5-3. While you don't necessarily write up each game like you do during the season, there were things that stood out in the early going.
First off, Trevor Rosenthal got the initial start of spring and admittedly went out trying to do to much. The first start of spring and trying to make a good first impression on what should be a tight fifth starter's race combined to have him "putting a little extra" on when he really didn't need to. It didn't fool the Marlins, who got four runs off of him in the two innings that he pitched. No doubt that he'll settle in and have a better outing next time. He really needs to, because if the competition for that last slot is as close as we think it is, he can't afford too many missteps.
On the flip side of that, Michael Wacha relieved him in Saturday's game and threw two scoreless innings, allowing only two balls in his 21 pitches. I continue to hear more and more about Wacha, about his poise and how impressive he is on the mound. I'm starting to wonder if he's not a dark horse, if not for the rotation then for a bullpen role. I've already seen where starting him at Memphis is on the table, which is impressive in and of itself since he was drafted just last June and only got a handful of innings at Springfield at the end of the year. If he's good enough for Memphis, he may be good enough for the big leagues. I think Wacha and the reaction to what he does is worth some close examination this spring.
Matt Adams got to start on Saturday due to Allen Craig having a sore shoulder (which, hopefully, is just one of those spring injuries from doing work you've not been accustomed to over the winter) and got a big base hit, against a left-hander to boot. As much as we've talked about Oscar Taveras and a four-man rotation in the outfield, you can accomplish much of the same by bringing Adams north and starting him at first on days when you want Craig to relieve Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran. I thought I'd read somewhere--maybe in Kevin's reporting from Winter Warmup--that Craig tends to prefer the outfield anyway, so that might not be a huge issue for him. It also helps what is shaping up to be a very weak bench by having Adams or whomever is being relieved that day as a late-inning option. (BTW, Brian Vaughan from StanGraphs and I talked about this on Conversations With C70 this weekend, in case you missed that a new one was up. Still waiting to hear from people about that theme song!)
Rafael Furcal had a cortisone shot this weekend, hoping to help out the elbow that now also has a bone spur on it. He got a chance to DH from the left side in Sunday's game, going 0-2, but there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of optimism that he'll be in the field any time soon. It's looking more and more like Ronny Cedano might be getting a lot of playing time this spring and beyond. John Mozeliak terms Cedano as a player in which "you know what you've got." Problem is, that's really not much. You could put a UCB member out on the field and you'd know what you've got as well, but I don't recommend it. (Sorry, Dennis.)
There were some positive things in the middle infield on Sunday. Daniel Descalso homered and Matt Carpenter turned a smooth double play. You can't take much from one game, of course, but it was nice to see. If Carpenter can handle the infield work, we'll probably see a good number of games where he's in there for six or seven innings and Descalso handles the rest. Though we'll likely see a lot of games with Descalso starting and Carpenter relieving others or being the one good bench option as well. But if shortstop is going to be such a problem, it'd be nice not to have two holes around second base.
One thing we won't see is Beltran running around in center field this year. The official line when he signed that he could get out there in center was debatable at the time (he went out to center nine times last year, though contrary to what Joe Strauss seems to imply, the fact that his first time was in the Johan Santana no-hitter was coincidence, not correlation). It seems to have been one of those "sell the deal" myths that have sprung up at times, like when the front office suggested after the Colby Rasmus deal that Marc Rzepczynski could be a starter. Now, we worry if he faces one right hander, much less a starting lineup full of them. Anyway, that might open up another avenue for Taveras, who can play some center (though it's not his regular position), but more likely means that Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson are going to be competing to be Jon Jay's backup.
Adam Wainwright takes the mound today for his first spring start, facing the Astros in Jupiter. You can listen to that game if you've got GameDay Audio, as Houston's radio network will be broadcasting it. I hope it's a sharp Wainwright because if there's anything that can make a Monday bearable, it's listening to a lot of called strike threes!
Housekeeping links: With spring training here, you really need the UCB Annual to help your baseball fever. Buy it today!......Also, this is the last week for the Cardinal Approval Ratings. Still need more responses to have a solid feel for the fan base. It'll take you maybe three minutes, so click here now. My goal is at least another 20 this week....The White Sox Playing Pepper entry will go up this afternoon, so come by and check that out!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball