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As strong as the first two positions, catcher and first base, are for the St. Louis Cardinals, second base has been a sore point for the team for many years.
Many have manned the position in recent seasons, but none have stuck. After finally releasing chronic complainer Adam Kennedy, it looks like there will be an open competition this spring.
The surprising leading candidate to start at second this season is converted outfielder Skip Schumaker. Skip played shortstop earlier in his career and has a plus arm as an outfielder, so the primary goal in spring training has been to adjust him to the more routine plays as a second baseman.
He also puts up fine numbers for an infielder at the dish, so he should fit into the lineup well if he can learn the position.
There are other contenders, but none look too exciting. Brendan Ryan is constantly in Tony La Russa's doghouse despite flashes of talent and Brian Barden is a decent but not great player in any facet of the game.
Joe Thurston is a career utility, backup type of player, and Jarrett Hoffpauir has done nothing in the minors to demonstrate that he can be a starter in the big leagues.
There is still an outside chance that the Cardinals make a move to fill this spot, but it's doubtful. Tony La Russa has always been full of schemes and wacky ideas, and it appears that Schumaker at second is the latest one that he's fallen in love with.
Although it's certainly risky, planting Skip at second might pay off in the long run. Position coach Jose Oquendo is one of the best in the game in working with infielders, and after watching Troy Glaus contend for a Gold Glove last season, there's a chance that he'll be able to make big steps with Schu as the season goes on.
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