Looking for an Outfielder

If there is any tinkering to be done with the Cardinals' roster, besides adding a starting pitcher, it would be the acquisition of a right-handed-hitting outfielder, preferably one who can play all three outfield positions.

Two projected regulars, left-handed-hitting Chris Duncan and Jim Edmonds, batted only .170 and .156, respectively, against left-handed pitchers last season. Right-handed-hitting Juan Encarnacion, back in right field, hit .316 against left-handers but only .261 against right-handers.

One answer to the problem is right-handed-hitting veteran So Taguchi, who hit .280 against left-handers, but Taguchi provides little power. Among the other extra outfielders, both John Rodriguez and Skip Schumaker are left-handed batters.

Veteran free agent Preston Wilson, a right-handed batter, provided a late-season lift, but he strikes out too much and is not a strong defender. The Cardinals are unlikely to re-sign him.

Look for switch-hitting Scott Spieizo, an infielder by trade who hit .318 against left-handers, to see time in the outfield against left-handed pitching.


--C/OF Eli Marrero is back as a non-roster player, giving the Cardinals a third catcher if they choose to keep one. Marrero was traded, in part, a few years ago, because he said he didn't want to catch anymore, but manager Tony La Russa said Marrero has changed his stance now.

--One of the best offseason free agent signings? Seven-year regular 2B Adam Kennedy, who had been with the Angels, was signed for a total of $10 million for three years to return to the team that had drafted him.

--RF Juan Encarnacion, who had offseason wrist surgery and who created a stir by being the only player not to attend the Cardinals' victory parade, apparently has survived offseason trade rumors and will be back as a regular outfielder.

--The Cardinals expect to sign OF Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract even though Ankiel missed all of last season with a knee injury.

--Although his results were spotty and he displayed a tendency to give up home runs, RHP Jorge Sosa still is of interest to the club, which is seeking to re-sign him.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- Longest individual Cardinals hitting streak of 2006, by 3B Scott Rolen and RF Juan Encarnacion.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Izzy feels great. This means we can condition Adam (Wainwright) to be a starter." -- GM Walt Jocketty, discussing the comeback from September hip surgery by closer Jason Isringhausen. One of the big stories of the spring will be Duncan's hoped-for improvement as an outfielder. "He'll be at least average on his worst day," said confident manager Tony La Russa, dismissing Duncan's October fly-chasing foibles.

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