While the St. Louis Cardinals have had their share of sad news this week with the passing of Stan Musial, there is a lot to be excited about in 2013.
With spring training just around the corner, the Cardinals have dealt with several past problems and seen positive developments in areas that just needed a little nudge.
This team, even without Kyle Lohse, has the potential to be a better fielded team than last year with more solidity in a few lineup slots and a defensive position.
Given how deep the Cardinals managed to play into October last year, I see no reason fans shouldn’t be pumped up about the team we should begin seeing in just a few weeks.
Here are eight encouraging signs for the Cardinals as the 2013 baseball season continues to draw near.
At the end of 2012, shortstop Rafael Furcal was nursing a partially torn tendon in his elbow that could have required Tommy John surgery.
He and the team opted to try to wait out surgery in hopes that rehab would be enough to solve the problem. The team believes Furcal is good to go for spring training and that is good news for Cardinals fans.
If he returns and plays to the ability he is capable of, that will be a huge step for the Cardinals in 2013. The front office took a gamble opting not to sign a shortstop during the offseason and, at least so far, it appears to have been the right move.
The market was thin at the position this season anyhow, so a healthy Furcal would be the ideal situation for the club.
Possibly the most exciting thing in St. Louis this season will be the potential debut of Oscar Taveras.
The young outfielder has a bat that has had baseball fans salivating now for two years. He’s broken records all over the minor leagues and is poised to try to do the same in St. Louis.
I don’t expect him on Opening Day, but don’t be shocked if you see him in uniform before the All-Star break.
Did I mention that he just won his third consecutive title in three levels of minor league baseball? It will be interesting to see if he can continue that trend.
Since becoming a St. Louis Cardinal, local product David Freese has struggled with injuries. Prior to 2012, he had never played 100 games in a season.
Last year David Freese showed that he is more than a fly-by-night postseason superstar. He is capable of playing a full season and being consistently good.
His ankles held up and so did his bat. With a full offseason of rest and work, there is no reason not to expect more of the same from Freese in 2013.
If he can put together another 20-home run season and pull closer to 100 RBI as well as stay in the .300 BA range, none of which is out of reach for him, he could be a real catalyst for the club.
Given the lack of stability at second base in recent years, manager Mike Matheny gave Matt Carpenter a mission for the winter: learn to play second.
While Carpenter wouldn’t be viewed as the long-term second base solution, the Cardinals would love to have his bat in the lineup every day. Learning second base is the way to make that happen.
The combination of Tyler Greene and Daniel Descalso in 2012, while it got the team by, was not the ideal situation.
With any luck, Carpenter will be able to fill that gap up the middle and cause a major shift in the defensive dynamics of the club.
With only three starts in 2012 after being sidelined by a nerve issue, Carpenter made his comeback. He may not have been the Carpenter of old, but he once again showed his bulldog mentality.
With a full offseason under his belt, Carpenter no doubt feels he has something to prove. A recent interview with Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch confirmed that the bulldog is definitely pumped to start throwing baseballs again.
As he enters the last year of his contract, little is known of the long-term future for Carpenter, but one thing is for sure: Anytime he steps on the mound, he will give everything he has.
That alone is enough to be excited to watch in 2013.