With the beginning of spring training comes all of the triumph and tragedy that accompanies every baseball season.
As the weather gets warm and baseball returns to the radio, teams often encounter many surprises as they take back to the field.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been no exception this year.
From utility players hitting like sluggers to golf balls to the eye socket, the Cardinals have already seen their fair share of excitement and adversity in 2013. In many cases, this has served to bring to conclusion various position battles and even reaffirm the importance of a few players.
Of course, some things simply aren’t surprising. Successful spring showings from Matt Adams and Oscar Taveras, for example, are no surprise.
Following is a complete list of surprises, busts and injuries from 2013 Cardinals spring training camp.
When “Sugar” Shane Robinson came to St. Louis for his first extended stay in 2012, he did a good job of filling in the necessary gaps in the lineup and spent quite a bit of time as a pinch hitter.
He was nothing fancy, but he had the makings of a decent utility man who could play throughout the outfield.
In spring training, however, he’s swatting baseballs everywhere. He leads the entire team in home runs (3), RBI (11), batting average (.520), slugging percentage (1.000), runs scored (11) and OPS (1.586).
That’s not bad for a guy who had only 16 RBI in 102 games last season. Robinson is definitely making a case for the fourth outfielder position.
If even a portion of that success can carry over to the regular season, he could become a valuable asset.
Under normal circumstances, Pete Kozma would have been the story of the spring (much like he was in September-October). In terms of potential impact, he may still be.
While many had concerns about how he could handle pressure, he’s showing his ability to handle it every day in spring training. When Rafael Furcal went down with another elbow ligament tear, the job became his to lose.
So far, he’s owned the position. Kozma is currently batting .419 with two home runs and seven RBI. Assuming there is no major change, he will be the starting shortstop and have what may well be his last chance to prove his worth to the Cardinals.
He’s well on his way to doing just that.
The Cardinals' top 2012 draft pick, Michael Wacha, may have surprised some people in the organization this spring, but there’s no reason to be shocked.
He will likely begin the season at Triple-A Memphis, but he’s making it clear that his days in the minor leagues are numbered, as he continues to strike out major league hitters.
As of March 9, Wacha has struck out 13 batters in 9.2 innings. He’s given up only six hits, one run and one walk to date.
Wacha continues to develop his off-speed delivery, but there is little doubt that he could pitch at the major league level already.
If he continues to throw like he has, he could force the Cardinals’ hand.
Picked up to fill in on days when Rafael Furcal might need rest, Ronny Cedeno has yet to impress as a Cardinal.
Known more for his glove, Cedeno is hitting .227 and leads the team with six strikeouts. The most likely scenario is that he will never play a game in St. Louis.
With Kozma having the success he has and the ability of Daniel Descalso to spell him on occasion, the need for Cedeno may actually be less than it was when the team first signed him.
Short of a major performance change or an additional injury, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to be cut before Opening Day.
When Rafael Furcal was injured in August, many were concerned that could be the end for him as a Cardinal and possibly a player. Now, it turns out that may be the case.
A slight tear in an elbow ligament was treated with rest and a conditioning program that doctors suggested would likely heal the injury.
While much optimism surrounded him in the offseason, it quickly faded in spring training as he began to experience more discomfort. Discomfort finally gave way to pain, which eventually resulted in an announcement that he would require Tommy John surgery.
Expected to be out eight months, Furcal will likely never play another game as a Cardinal.
Marc Rzepczynski's injury is somewhat of a head-scratcher. It appears a golf ball ricocheted near his eye on an off day and temporarily sidelined him.
The team is reportedly still investigating the severity of the injury, but the assumption is that any missed time will be short in duration.
Little more is known of his injury at this time.
Manager Mike Matheny, who has struggled with back pain for quite some time, will have surgery this coming week.
Matheny tried a number of different therapies and treatments to avoid surgery, but announced Saturday that he would have an operation on Monday in St. Louis. Fortunately for the Cardinals, he should only miss a couple of spring training games and be good to go before the start of the regular season.
Matheny will enter his sophomore season as manager sporting a new contract extension and, he hopes, relief from pain that has bothered him for quite some time.