One week from today is the official spring training opening for the St. Louis Cardinals and the following seven players have the most on the line.
Some will pass this March baseball boot camp with honors, while others will be relegated to hell. Or Memphis.
But unlike Albert Pujols, who could send his kid out to play first base and everyone would cheer politely, these seven men will have the intense eyes of Cardinal Nation, managers, and front office honks burning holes in the back of their heads.
Their preparation since October will be splayed out for us to judge in mere hours.
Let’s go deep.
David Freese was handed the keys to the third base job in 2009 and he promptly started lying about a car accident, buckled under the pressure of a hometown over-hype, toiled away in the minor leagues, and then decided to booze and drive for a second DUI arrest.
So let’s do it all over again!
David Freese is the presumptive third baseman for the Cardinals heading into the 2009 season…this time with a much shorter leash.
According to David and his handlers, he’s been focusing solely on baseball and hasn’t had a drop of the sauce for months–but talk is cheap. Third base in the Cardinals lineup needs to be a spot of offensive production and Mr. Freese has the talent.
But does he have the mental toughness to overcome millions of prying eyes?
Fire Burning in the outfield had a very productive rookie season (.251/16/52) getting the majority of starts in center field. And this offseason the Cardinals showed much faith in the Rasmus by not going after a veteran OF that would take any significant time away from him sans the occasional day off versus a dominant left-hander.
Now is his time to blossom.
A troika of Holliday, Pujols, and Rasmus should be the core of star power for the Cardinals the next three years…but Rasmus has to avoid the sophomore slump and take that next step into stardom by proving his talent is not being abated by a lack of hard work.
Will he take his game to the next level? Spring training should get us a glimpse of what’s he’s been working on to do just that.
He got the mother load.
Expectations could not be higher.
Spring training is where he starts to prove jealous pricks like yours truly that money spent on Matt Holliday is money well spent.
He’ll be judged by the regular season and hopefully redeem himself in the post season, but his attitude and work ethic in camp will be scrutinized for any signs of fat-cat complacency.
Kyle McClellan didn’t want to be the fifth starter in 2009.
He knew that if he was in the rotation on a regular basis that something had gone wrong with Chris Carpenter for the third straight season and he was being forced to try and replace the Cardinals ace.
2010 is a different story. He’s now trying to fend off Jamie Garcia (the prospect) and Rich Hill (the reclamation project) to earn the ball every five games.
He’s prepared his entire life for the next six weeks that will determine his fate. It’s a three-horse race and out of the gate, McClellan is the favorite.
The mustache up the middle ended up being the Cardinals best defensive player in 2009 partly because Kahlil Greene had some medical problems and partly because Tony LaRussa didn’t have any other options.
Ryan flashed the leather early and often, though, in a break out year for the SS.
Now, in 2010, the Cardinals are penciling in Ryan as an everyday fielder, a position that many would have not found satisfying as little as eight months ago. But the face broom proved us wrong.
Ryan’s bat was less than feeble for 2009. Will spring training ’10 show us he’s got some life in that stick?
Tyler Green will be given every opportunity to make the 2010 Cardinals, I can promise you that.
He’s the only thing separating the Cardinals from having to go out and sign a veteran player to a expensive contract (in comparison).
And we know that the Cardinals don’t want to spend any more money, do they?
The $11 million man is on notice.
He signed the big contract before 2009 after a stellar 2008 campaign and promptly went out on the mound and took a big dump.
Yes, minor injuries plagued Kyle for most of 2009, but when you’re paid like a front of the rotation starter, the expectations are higher. When you’re paid like a front line starter and the two guys ahead of you go two and three in the Cy Young voting you kind of fly under the radar.
It’s the season of redemption for Mr. Lohse.