Cardinals major league notebook: 02/18/12

The first spring training camp for Mike Matheny as the St. Louis Cardinals manager is now officially underway.

INSIDE PITCH

 

Any team entering spring training without Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan will be weaker, no question.

 

Without perhaps baseball's top hitter, best manager and best pitching coach, the Cardinals will have to be a bit more resourceful under rookie manager Mike Matheny and his staff.

 

Many eyes will be on popular former Cardinals' catcher Matheny and how he conducts his first big-league camp.

 

Matheny has prepared diligently since November since he got the job and was always known as a no-nonsense type of player, but how will that translate to managing players with whom he was a friend, plus, in the case of right-hander Chris Carpenter and catcher Yadier Molina, a former teammate?

 

When folks aren't watching how Matheny operates, they will no doubt be observing the progress of right-hander Adam Wainwright, nearly a year removed from Tommy John elbow surgery. Wainwright has looked good in unofficial drills.

 

Also of interest is the rehabilitation of outfielder-infielder Allen Craig, a postseason hero who had off-season surgery on his right knee, which he hurt when he slammed into a fence while playing in Houston last May.

 

There are very few new players who will be wearing Cardinal uniforms, with the foremost being outfielder Carlos Beltran, a free agent signing at $26 million for two years.

 

Beltran, who played exclusively right field and not a minute in center all last season with the New York Mets and San Francisco as he recovered from knee surgery, will be used some in center this spring to assess his ability to play there at least on a part-time basis.

 

The battles for jobs will be minimal. A backup to Molina is needed, with youngsters Tony Cruz and Bryan Anderson battling with non-roster catcher Koyie Hill, formerly with the Chicago Cubs.

 

There probably is a spare infield job available with veteran Alex Cora, a non-roster invitee, a possible candidate.

 

And the Cardinals are hoping they can find a veteran setup man to replace Octavio Dotel and help new closer Jason Motte.

 

Scott Linebrink was invited to camp as non-roster player and will have a chance to win a job in the bullpen, although Linebrink isn't necessarily considered an eighth-inning man.

 

NOTES, QUOTES

 

RHP Adam Wainwright threw a simulated two-inning game against hitters even before camp officially opened. Rebounding from a season lost to elbow surgery, Wainwright said he felt good but, "command-wise, I've been much better than I was." New manager Mike Matheny said: "I was impressed with how smooth and fluid he was."

 

Former Cardinals star Jim Edmonds is expected to be in camp as a special instructor. RHP Ryan Franklin, the club's closer at the start of last season, has been hired as a special front office assistant and also is likely to be on hand.

 

RHP Jake Westbrook reported to camp some 20 pounds lighter and said he hoped to be more consistent than the 12-9, 4.66 ERA pitcher of a year ago. "I want to see how much longer I can play," the 34-year-old Westbrook said. "I'm not young anymore."

 

RHP Kyle Lohse, who led the Cardinals with 14 victories last season, has been dabbling with a different, biting curveball, rather than his bigger-breaking one. Healthy in the off-season for the first time in several years after a long stretch of forearm problems, the 33-year-old Lohse said: "I was able to do my normal work and experiment with stuff. I've got to. I'm getting old now."

 

INF Tyler Greene was the first position player on hand at camp, well ahead of the rest of the non-batterymen. Greene, erratic in previous trials, is bidding for, at most, the second base job or, at least, a backup infield job.

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 10 - Team high for sacrifice bunts last year by RHP Jake Westbrook and INF Daniel Descalso.

 

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If the weather stays like this, we'll be in shape and ready to go in five days."

- Red Schoendienst, a member of the Hall of Fame and a Cardinals instructor, on the perfect Florida weather the Cardinals were enjoying even before camp officially began.

 

ROSTER REPORT

 

Projected Rotation:

1. RHP Chris Carpenter

2. RHP Adam Wainwright

3. LHP Jaime Garcia

4. RHP Kyle Lohse

5. RHP Jake Westbrook

 

The return of Wainwright, a year removed from elbow surgery, should made a good rotation even stronger. Garcia, who has won in double figures twice in his first two full seasons, might be ready for a breakthrough year if he can avoid being distracted during games.

 

But if Wainwright is right, the Cardinals had the two aces (Wainwright, Carpenter) with which they figured they would start last season.

 
Projected Bullpen:

RHP Jason Motte (closer)

RHP Fernando Salas

RHP Lance Lynn

RHP Kyle McClellan

RHP Eduardo Sanchez

LHP Marc Rzepczynski

LHP J.C. Romero

RHP Mitchell Boggs

 

Motte, a late-season success as a closer, will be the Cardinals' ninth inning man at the start of the season. Salas, who had 24 saves last year, will be a reliable setup man but the club is hoping to find another veteran to help in late innings.

 

Lynn, a postseason success, might begin the season at Class AAA Memphis if the club envisions him as a starter. Rzepczynski is a versatile left-hander who can also retire right-handed hitters and doesn't have to be employed only in situational roles.

 
Projected Lineup:

1. SS Rafael Furcal

2. RF Carlos Beltran

3. LF Matt Holliday

4. 1B Lance Berkman

5. 3B David Freese

6. CF Jon Jay

7. C Yadier Molina

8. 2B Daniel Descalso

 

Newcomer Beltran could hit second, third or fifth, although new manager Mike Matheny seems inclined to have Holliday bat third. When OF-1B Allen Craig (knee surgery) returns in early May, if not before, Beltran could move to center field against left-handed pitching.

 
Top Rookies:

RHP Shelby Miller may be on the fast track to the majors. The 21-year-old Miller, who throws in the mid-90s, was a combined 11-6 at Class A Quad Cities and Class AA Springfield last year. He is fewer than three years removed from being the club's top pick in the 2009 draft. Also to be watched is 24-year-old Erik Komatsu, a Rule 5 pick from Washington. Komatsu, a left-handed-hitting outfielder, hit a combined .277 in the Milwaukee and Washington systems last year.


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