St. Louis Cardinals Roster Battles: 3 Most Intriguing Spring Position Battles
The defending champions lost two key players in free agency in Albert Pujols and Edwin Jackson, but they still seem to have most positions covered going into 2012. The addition of Carlos Beltran and the return of Adam Wainwright assure that the Cardinals remain contenders with their current roster.
One big thing for the Cardinals will be deciding the second base job. That seems to be the only starting spot that is up for grabs. Otherwise, players will have to fight their way onto the bench.
Here are the three spring battles to keep an eye on at Cardinals camp.
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Candidates: Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso, Skip Schumaker
The second base battle will likely be a two-horse race now that Schumaker has an oblique injury that will likely lead to a DL stint to begin the year.
Tyler Greene has had more experience at second, and he is listed on MLB.com as the No. 1 second baseman on the depth chart. This is likely not the case.
Daniel Descalso played third base mostly last year as David Freese struggled to stay healthy during the regular season. Descalso impressed with incredible defense that landed him in the final three for the NL Gold Glove. The only issue was that he wasn't hitting like a third baseman.
The switch to second base should aid Descalso. His offense lends more to the position and his defense should translate well. A strong spring highlighted by a 1.070 OPS should also lead to Descalso as the starter on Opening Day.
Favorite: Daniel Descalso
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Candidates: Adron Chambers, Erik Komatsu, Shane Robinson, Matt Carpenter
The injury to Skip Schumaker really throws a wrench into things on the bench because Schumaker's versatility added to the team's depth. The Cardinals will likely have to carry two players on the bench capable of playing the outfield.
Erik Komatsu is an intriguing prospect because he will have to make the team to stay with the Cardinals. As a Rule 5 pick, Komatsu will likely end up back with the Washington Nationals if he doesn't earn his way onto the roster.
Adron Chambers played a small role in the Cardinals' World Series run, but he could be a valuable asset off the bench in 2012 as his speed makes him a great threat.
Matt Carpenter also debuted for the Cards in 2011 and his time in the majors didn't go very smoothly. Fortunately, he has had a strong spring and his ability to play third base and the outfield could be a great asset for Mike Matheny.
Favorites: Adron Chambers and Matt Carpenter
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Candidates: Jason Motte, Fernando Salas
Mike Matheny has already said that he wants the ball in Jason Motte's hands in the ninth when the Cardinals need to protect the lead, but I wouldn't write off Fernando Salas yet.
It's hard to deny that Salas would make a great closer for the Cards. Salas finished 2011 with a 2.28 ERA and 24 saves in 30 opportunities, while Motte saved just nine. He has the stuff to close and would be a great option.
The reason that the job will go to Motte is because he has the momentum at the position. It's very difficult to unseat a closer that is doing well and Motte did very well in the postseason, saving five of five. The one knock on Salas may be that he wasn't the guy that threw the final pitch of 2011. That guy will be the next Cardinals closer.
Favorite: Jason Motte