My assumption is that the Cardinals will open the season with 12 pitchers. I stand on pretty firm ground there in that the club has started with that configuration in nine of the last ten years. The only exception was in 2005. That spring, a recovering Matt Morris opened the season on the disabled list. Due to off days, the club got by until Morris was activated to make his first start on April 19.
For me, the lack of suspense comes from the reality that the club is pretty well set with the possible exception of three situations.
In the first case, we will know much more after Jaime Garcia's Monday outing against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee. Another strong showing and pencil could soon change to ink. McClellan has been good, but not great and Rich Hill may soon need to make a tough decision about his future.
If McClellan yields his rotation bid and heads to the pen, Mitchell Boggs' chances of remaining decline a bit. He still seems in the lead, though non-roster invitee Fernando Salas is making the competition interesting and recent rumblings from the coaches imply Adam Ottavino should not be counted out. If McClellan starts, then Salas' or Ottavino's chance improves considerably, with Garcia likely Memphis-bound.
I have the outfield battle oriented toward Allen Craig and Joe Mather winning, but Nick Stavinoha continues to hit, making this far from a sure thing. Because of Mather's versatility, especially ability to back up Colby Rasmus in centerfield, I see the real competition between Craig and Stavi, with the former holding a slight lead.
|Starting pitchers (5)||Out (3)|
|Chris Carpenter||Rich Hill (NRI)|
|Adam Wainwright||Adam Ottavino|
|Brad Penny||P.J. Walters|
|Jaime Garcia (L)|
|Relief pitchers (7)||Out (4)|
|Ryan Franklin||Fernando Salas (NRI)|
|Blake Hawksworth||Eduardo Sanchez (NRI)|
|Kyle McClellan||Oneli Perez (NRI)|
|Trever Miller (L)||Pete Parise (NRI)|
|Dennys Reyes (L)|
|Catchers (2)||Out (1)|
|Yadier Molina||Matt Pagnozzi|
|Infielders (6)||Out (2)|
|David Freese||Tyler Greene|
|Felipe Lopez||Ruben Gotay (NRI)|
|Outfielders (5)||Out (2)|
|Allen Craig||Jon Jay|
|Matt Holliday||Nick Stavinoha|
If the opening day 25-man roster lines up as I predict, 2010 will become only the third spring in Tony La Russa's 15 years with the Cardinals that a non-roster player did not make the team. The other times were in 1999 and 2007. The most NRIs to make the opening day club in any given year was four in 2003.
Last spring, three NRI's came north with the Cardinals from Florida – prospects David Freese and Colby Rasmus and journeyman infielder Joe Thurston.
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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