Given that early similarity, I thought it would be interesting to look back at how the Cardinals' spring training 2012 unfolded.
Last spring, Adam Wainwright was ready to test himself after having missed the entire season prior. His right elbow gave out as 2011 camp opened. Now, with Wainwright's contract situation becoming front and center, the 30-year-old is being asked to lead an even younger staff that is missing both Carpenter and free agent Kyle Lohse.
Last spring on the fields of Florida, manager Mike Matheny's maiden club played well, initially weathering the departure of Albert Pujols. St. Louis won 16 and lost nine. They also tied twice and lost one game to weather. The Cards' record in one-run games was a solid 6-3, an edge which they were unable to continue during the regular season that followed.
Despite the questions noted above, the staff overall logged a National League-best 3.05 spring ERA.
Lance Lynn, who had proved his mettle as a reliever in 2011, was elevated to the rotation to replace Carpenter and stepped up. The right-hander was a major story as he was solid in camp, posting a 2.61 spring ERA. It was a preview of what was ahead, with Lynn going on to earn an all-star berth and winning 18 games.
The Cards were fifth in the NL with a .276 team batting average last spring. The Cards were the only NL offense to score in every spring game. In another trend that did not continue into the regular season, the club swiped 26 bases in 27 games with a 77 percent success rate.
Offensively, only David Freese (.188) and Rafael Furcal (.192) didn't hit much, though the third baseman's 10 RBI was just one off Matt Holliday's team lead. Holliday batted .383, with newcomer Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina at .340 and Lance Berkman at .324.
The only position player starting job opening was at second base. Though Matheny did not declare a winner, it seemed Daniel Descalso (.283) had edged out Tyler Greene (.267) as the second baseman.
Skip Schumaker was out of the initial competition at second base, opening the season on the disabled list due to an oblique injury incurred partway through camp.
First baseman/outfielder Allen Craig also returned to the DL after suffering a setback in his recovery from off-season knee surgery. Working exclusively in minor league camp, Craig did not have a spring plate appearance with the major league club.
Partially due to the injuries, there was little surprise as to the makeup of the initial 25-man roster. In the only real battle, Tony Cruz beat out Bryan Anderson as the reserve catcher. Despite Anderson hitting .478 to Cruz' .375, the latter received the nod for his defense.
Four of the five reserve position players made their first opening day roster. They were Cruz, infielder Matt Carpenter plus outfielders Shane Robinson and Rule 5 addition Erik Komatsu. Komatsu would be waived by the start of May, when Craig was ready to return.
Despite not getting a September call up in 2011, Carpenter really opened eyes in Florida, batting .357 and tying Freese and Yadier Molina with 10 RBI. Robinson added nine runs batted in.
Two veteran non-roster invitees, catcher Koyie Hill and infielder Alex Cora, were given trials during camp, but were released.
With Kyle McClellan and Jason Motte looking to be the most experienced returning relievers on the club, with four and three years of MLB experience each, the Cardinals brought in a pair of veterans for the bullpen. Left-hander J.C. Romero was given a major league contract despite having been released three times in 2011. He was gone by Memorial Day.
The other veteran addition was right-hander Scott Linebrink. As an NRI, the 35-year-old hander had to compete for a job. After allowing just one run in 9 2/3 spring innings, he was selected for the opening-day roster, the only NRI to make the team.
However, Linebrink did not pitch one regular-season inning for the Cardinals. The right-hander went on the disabled list after the first game of the season due to shoulder inflammation. He was replaced by Victor Marte, who had allowed just one run in 10 spring innings. Linebrink was released at the end of June while still on the DL.
Closer Jason Motte had a quiet spring, allowing three earned runs in 11 2/3 innings, though his eight walks against just six strikeouts caused notice. Coming off having pitched in Class-A in 2011, Trevor Rosenthal allowed just one run in 7 1/3 innings. Though he did not make the team, that changed in July.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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