St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Wrapup

The Cardinals are poised for another run for the National League Central Division Crown.

 

INSIDE PITCH

Second baseman Junior Spivey continues to be a mystery. In one
three-game stretch during the last week of spring training, Spivey
committed three errors and went 0 for 11, dropping his spring average
to .139.

Spivey, a former All-Star, signed for $1.2 million this offseason
and for most of camp still played ahead of Aaron Miles and Hector Luna,
although Miles caught manager Tony La Russa's attention with his
aggressive play and offense (Miles as hitting .333). La Russa played

Miles at shortstop and third base in the last week of camp, without
incident.

Miles will likely to be kept as a utility man and perhaps even the
starter at second base.

The final configuration of the Cardinals' bullpen was five
right-handers and two left-handers, but it did not include veteran RHP
Jeff Nelson. Nelson admitted to being perplexed about being released
despite giving up one hit and no runs in 5 2/3 innings.

"It's definitely a shock," said the 39-year-old Nelson. "I don't
know how you pitch better? Do I not give up any hits? I don't know. I
really don't know."

La Russa said, "(Nelson) was getting sharper, but I thought the
other guys (Josh Hancock, Adam Wainwright) had an edge on him."
Rather than pay him his full $850,000 contract, the Cardinals waived
Deivi Cruz, meaning they owed him for only 45 days. Cruz hit just .146
this spring. Cruz, a nine-year veteran, hit 14 homers in 2003 with
Baltimore.

That left the last utility spot up for grabs between Luna and Scott
Spiezio.

Rookie Skip Schumaker appeared to secure an outfield job, at least
until veteran Larry Bigbie has recovered from a stress fracture in his
left foot. Chris Duncan, one of the hitting stars in camp, and John
Gall, were optioned to Triple-A Memphis.

Duncan, son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, is converting
from first base -- where he is behind MVP Albert Pujols -- to the
outfield. He had a club-high four homers in camp.

"I think Chris has had an eye-opening kind of spring, but he needs
to get out there every day to take his swings," said La Russa.

SEASON PREVIEW: Spring training complicated rather than cleared up
some issues for the Cardinals.

When the Cardinals came to camp, the second base job was advertised
as a competition among veteran free agent signee Junior Spivey,
holdover utilityman Hector Luna and switch-hitting Aaron Miles,
acquired from Colorado. But the competition, in a positive sense, never
really took place.

Spivey didn't hit and didn't field. Luna didn't hit and didn't field
although he stole some bases. And Miles had five hits in his first
start but then jammed his left wrist and didn't play for two weeks.

Given his experience and the fact the Cardinals invested $1.2
million in him, Spivey figured to be the starter anyway, at least at
the beginning of the season, but keep an eye on Miles.

Left field was advertised in most quarters as a three-pronged battle
among left-handed-hitting Larry Bigbie, acquired from Colorado;
left-handed-hitting John Rodriguez, who showed well in the last two
months of last season, and right-handed-hitting So Taguchi, who batted
.288 in 396 at-bats last year.

Taguchi was sure to retain his spot. Neither Rodriguez nor Bigbie
hit much through most of spring training, both were bothered by
injuries (shoulder, foot; heel, respectively) and one or both of them
was in danger of not making the club until Bigbie was declared out for
three to four weeks with a stress fracture of his left foot.

That helped young Skip Schumaker, a left-handed hitter. Schumaker
has the speed and defensive versatility La Russa likes.

John Gall was another outfield candidate, but he was likely to make
the club as a hitter and not because of his glove. Chris Duncan, son of

Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, had the best spring of any
outfielder, hitting for power and average, but the natural first
baseman will go to Triple-A for a while to learn how to better play the
outfield.

PRIMED FOR A BIG SEASON: CF Jim Edmonds has a 2007 contract option
he would like picked up, with the hope the Cardinals would add another
year to it. Edmonds is coming off a disappointing .263 season with 29
homers and 89 runs batted in.

I'd also keep an eye on Jason Marquis, this may be the season he puts it all together.

ON THE DECLINE: Through much of camp, 2B Junior Spivey looked
nothing like the former All-Star with Arizona. He seemed a step slow to
his left in the field and overmatched at bat.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Chris Carpenter, the reigning Cy Young Award winner, finished
the spring giving up only two runs in 26 2/3 innings. He will face
Philadelphia on Monday.
--1B Brian Daubach, impressive as a non-roster player, agreed to
report to Triple-A Memphis after being cut with a week to go in camp.
--CF Jim Edmonds, plagued by various injuries this spring, missed
three starts with a bruised foot but should be all right by the start
of the season.
--OF John Rodriguez, who should make the club as an extra man, was sidelined briefly with a muscle spasm behind his left , he injured his shoulder again Friday and may start the season on the DL.
--OF Rick Ankiel didn't play at all in the spring, having been
hampered by patellar tendinitis in his left knee. Just as he was about
to play for the first time, Ankiel felt a strain in the knee as he was
tracking fly balls, according to trainer Barry Weinberg.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Number of left-handed pitchers who will be on
the Cardinals' 12-man staff -- Mark Mulder, Ricardo Rincon and Randy
Flores.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel if I'm going right, it doesn't matter who
steps in the batter's box." -- RHP Jason Marquis, after blanking the
Washington Nationals, a team he pitched a complete-game shutout against
last season, for six innings in an exhibition game.

ROSTER REPORT

The Cardinals made it through spring training with no major injury
problems other than outfielder Larry Bigbie, who has been sidelined
with a stress fracture in his left foot. The player bearing the most
scrutiny in that regard was 3B Scott Rolen, who reported little or no
discomfort with his left shoulder, which required two surgeries last
season, costing him more than half the year.

ROTATION:

1. RHP Chris Carpenter
2. LHP Mark Mulder
3. RHP Jason Marquis
4. RHP Jeff Suppan
5. RHP Sidney Ponson

The Cardinals had the luxury of having seven potential starters as
they have right-handed hopefuls Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright
waiting in the wings. Take a good look at the starting five, though.
All but Carpenter are eligible to be free agents at the end of the
season and the Cardinals probably will be able to bring just two of
them back.


BULLPEN:

RHP Jason Isringhausen (closer)
RHP Braden Looper
RHP Brad Thompson
LHP Ricardo Rincon
LHP Randy Flores
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Josh Hancock

The Cardinals had four spots to fill from last year's bullpen and it
remained to be seen still how well they had done that. Looper, the
acknowledged setup man, started camp roughly and ended it poorly after
pitching well in the middle. RHPs Julian Tavarez, Al Reyes, Cal Eldred
and LHP Ray King will be missed. The bullpen will be comprised of five
right-handers and two left-handers. Isringhausen still is among the top
closers in the game.

LINEUP:

1. SS David Eckstein
2. LF So Taguchi
3. 1B Albert Pujols
4. CF Jim Edmonds
5. 3B Scott Rolen
6. RF Juan Encarnacion
7. C Yadier Molina
8. 2B Aaron Miles or Junior Spirve

Manager Tony La Russa still hadn't settled on a No. 2 hitter as camp
wound down. Encarnacion, a run producer, might even wind up there
because La Russa, going back even to his days with the Chicago White
Sox and Oakland Athletics, likes power from that spot.

1B Pujols, who won the Most Valuable Player award anyway, should get
more protection this year from CF Edmonds, trying to rebound from an
off year, and 3B Rolen, who had a wasted year because of left shoulder
problems.


RESERVES:

C Gary Bennett
INF Junior Spivey
INF Scott Spiezio
OF John Rodriguez (if he doesn't land on the DL)
OF Skip Schumaker

La Russa likes versatility on his bench and that's where the switch-hitting Spiezio, who plays three positions, and the switch-hitting Miles come in. Rodriguez provides lefthanded power off the bench.

Bennett will catch very little if young Yadier Molina stays healthy.

ROOKIE WATCH: OF Skip Schumaker made huge strides this spring,
showing he can hit enough to stay in the big leagues as an extra
outfielder. His speed and defense were givens. RHP Anthony Reyes will
be in the rotation at some point in the season, but not just yet as the
Cardinals go through the whole process with veteran RHP Sidney Ponson.
John Gall provides a live bat off the bench but isn't a very good
fielder.

MEDICAL WATCH: 3B Scott Rolen had no problems with his left shoulder
which required two surgeries last season. OF Larry Bigbie (stress
fracture in left foot) probably won't rejoin the big club until May.
LHP Randy Flores, who had elbow surgery to remove bone chips, displayed
no ill effects, nor did RHP Braden Looper, who had offseason shoulder
surgery.


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