St. Louis Cardinals Starters or Relievers?

Pending the signing of one or two other starters before spring training, it appears that Adam Wainwright, the relief hero of the Cardinals' postseason ride last season, will go into the rotation next spring.

Wainwright, acquired from Atlanta before the 2004 season, had been a starter in the Braves' minor league system and also started in the Cardinals' minor league chain but spent all of 2006 in the Cardinals' bullpen.

"I think Adam Wainwright could be as good as any pitcher who was in the free agent market," said general manager Walt Jocketty. "He has the capabilities of that."

Besides Wainwright, relievers Brad Thompson and Braden Looper have been told to stretch themselves out this spring. Looper never has started a major league game in 572 appearances.

The Cardinals, opting for prudent rather than panic, were runners-up in the Miguel Batista sweepstakes, just as they were for Jason Schmidt and as they figure to be for right-hander Jeff Suppan, who won 44 games for them the last three seasons and was a postseason hero in 2006.

"I definitely think we would overpay (for Suppan)," said manager Tony La Russa. "The difference between slightly overpaying and really overpaying is the question."


--RF Juan Encarnacion, who was benched for the final two games of the World Series, finally had surgery on his left wrist to alleviate the pain that bothered him during the playoffs. He had rested it for a month to no avail but should be ready by spring training.

--RHP Russ Springer, who suffered through an injury-plagued 2003 with the Cardinals, re-signed with them for one year at $1.75 million after three successful years as a setup man in Houston. He is 38.

--Looking for a right-handed-hitting outfielder to augment their bench, the Cardinals have inquired about ex-Dodger Jayson Werth, who missed most of last season because of injuries. He is the grandson of former Cardinals bonus-baby shortstop Dick Schofield.

--The Cardinals chose not to offer pitcher-turned-outfielder Rick Ankiel a contract although they hope to sign him to a minor league pact. Ankiel didn't play last season because of a knee injury suffered in camp, but if he signs a minor league deal, the Cardinals won't have to worry about getting him to a minor league affiliate without his not having any options left.

--RHP Jason Isringhausen, who missed the last month and all of the postseason with a hip injury that required surgery, continues to progress and is on target for Opening Day, or close to it.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Number of starts out of 13 former Cardinals RHP Jason Marquis won after the All-Star break in 2006. Marquis went to the Chicago Cubs as a free agent, pending a physical.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have done a nice job of putting this roster together by not overpaying." -- Manager Tony La Russa, on the Cardinals' hesitance to dive into the deep water in the free agent pool.


Despite being the World Series champions, the Cardinals have many holes to fill for next year, both on the mound and at two or more positions.

ARRIVALS: 2B Adam Kennedy (free agent from Angels), RHP Kip Wells (free agent from Rangers), UT Eli Marrero (minor league free agent from Mets), RHP Russ Springer (free agent from Astros).

DEPARTURES: RHP Jason Marquis (free agent, signed with Cubs, pending physical).

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Cards need starting pitchers to go with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Anthony Reyes and Wells, and one of the replacements might be RHP Adam Wainwright, who spent last season in the bullpen. Signing one or two free agent pitchers seems paramount. There is also need for another outfielder.

FREE AGENTS: RHP Jeff Weaver, RHP Jeff Suppan, LHP Mark Mulder, 2B Ronnie Belliard, OF Preston Wilson, INF Jose Vizcaino, OF Rick Ankiel (non-tendered).

Mulder, who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery, might have interest in returning to the Cardinals on an incentive-laden basis. Wilson and Vizcaino probably are gone, though there may be some interest in Wilson. The others might be back, although Suppan and Weaver may have priced themselves out of the Cardinals' market with their strong postseason performances.


IN LIMBO: Trade bait is marginal. RF Juan Encarnacion, a postseason disappointment, could go, although the last two years of his three-year, $15 million contract are backloaded. Probably nobody is on the market else unless the Cardinals don't feel they can play OF Chris Duncan every day because he is such a poor fielder. His market mostly would be to the American League as a designated hitter or as a first baseman.

PROSPECT WATCH: CF Skip Schumaker was impressive on the U.S. team that played in the Olympic qualifying tournament. He has speed and defensive ability and should make the club next year. LHP Chris Narveson, who was the best pitcher on a bad Triple-A team at Memphis, looked good in a late-season start at Houston and might make the rotation or the bullpen next season.


LHP Mark Mulder, who had rotator cuff surgery, thinks he'll be back early in the season, but he is a free agent and may not be re-signed.

RHP Jason Isringhausen, who had left hip surgery, may miss the first month of the season.

CF Jim Edmonds had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Nov. 15, and he may have to have something done to his left foot, which pained him late in the season.

RF Juan Encarnacion had minor surgery on his left wrist and is expected to be ready for 2007.

RHP Kip Wells, who had foot surgery, should be ready for spring training.

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