As the spring begins to wrap up, things that were once question marks are becoming clear for the Cardinals.
Going into spring training, there were a few position battles to be had. However, as spring training wore on, a new everyday spot became available at shortstop with Rafael Furcal never getting healthy from last season.
As the Cardinals hold auditions for a fifth starter, a second baseman, a fourth outfielder and a shortstop, there are some excellent competitions.
Fifth Starter Spot
The fifth-starter competition has come down to Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly. Neither one has really blown the socks off Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, to date. Miller has posted a 2-0 record with a 4.63 ERA in his four appearances. To his credit, he does have the two wins and has struck out 11 in 11.2 innings, plus batters are hitting only .234 off Miller this spring.
Joe Kelly likewise has been very mediocre. He has not posted a record in his four appearances and has a 4.91 ERA this spring. He has only struck out two in his 11 innings while hitters are batting .302 against him.
Matheny says he hasn't made his decision yet, however, I expect Miller to get the nod to start the season as the Cardinals' fifth starter.
The Cardinals had a merry-go-round last season at second base. Everyone from Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker had a chance to take the position, but no one could do it.
This spring the Cardinals have looked at Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso and briefly Kolten Wong. Matt Carpenter was the Cardinals super utility-man last season. However, of all the positions he logged time at, second base wasn't one of them.
Carpenter has impressed this spring. He is hitting .400 with a .491 OBP and eight RBI this spring in 16 games. He has also fielded his position well according to Matheny.
Descalso has actually hit this spring, which makes the competition a bit harder. Descalso has an excellent glove, but his weak bat has limited his playing time. He is hitting .327 with two home runs and five RBI this spring, but it probably isn't enough to get him the starting job.
With Carpenter's performance in the field and at the plate, expect him to be the opening-day starter at second.
This has been my favorite competition to watch. With Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran already cemented in their starting roles, the fourth outfielder spot was up for grabs.
All Cardinal fans have been excited to see what top prospect Oscar Taveras would be able to do this spring. Taveras has had exciting moments, including a grand slam against the Marlins. Taveras has been very solid this spring posting a .296 average with two home runs and 10 RBI in his 16 games.
Shane Robinson knew he would be up against Taveras and his hype this spring. Robinson came prepared and brought his A-game. Robinson has pounded the ball in the Grapefruit League, posting a .465 average with three home runs and 12 RBI in 16 games.
With Taveras only having played at AA thus far and Robinson having filled the fourth outfielder spot last season, I expect Robinson to be the opening-day fourth outfielder.
This spot wasn't supposed to be up for grabs because the Cardinals thought Rafael Furcal would be healthy. But with Furcal out for the season after having Tommy John surgery, the position was unsettled. The Cardinals brought in veteran Ronny Cedeno for a look, but he didn't work out and was released.
Now the position will fall to either Pete Kozma or Daniel Descalso. As mentioned earlier, Descalso has had a pretty solid spring. Kozma has also done a nice job this spring at the plate. He is batting .318 with two home runs and seven RBI in 15 games.
Given Kozma's late season success in 2012 and that carryover into spring training, I think it is his spot to lose.
Descalso can play shortstop, second or third, so it is likely he'll be the utility man going into 2012.
Now the Cardinals just need to find a spot for Matt Adams and their bench should be complete.
It should be an exciting 2013 for Cardinal fans. With the battles for open positions coming to a close, the Cardinals should be in contention all season. Here's to another playoff run.
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