Surveying the Cards' Crops: Spring Training

Senior Minor League writer Dustin Mattison takes a look at nine Cardinals farmhands making a positive impression this spring.

As the end of spring training nears, some St. Louis Cardinals farmhands have enjoyed outstanding camps. Some have caught the eye of management, positioning themselves for possible call ups during the 2010 season. Others have put themselves in the mix for a position on the team's 25-man roster when the Cardinals take on the Cincinnati Reds on April 5. As the beginning of the season approaches, here is a look at those players that have made their name one to remember for Cardinals fans.

Coming into camp, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan tried to dismiss the notion of Jaime Garcia breaking camp with the big club. But on March 24, the southpaw has all but sewn up the fifth spot in the rotation according to the Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss. Coming off Tommy John surgery, the coaching staff wanted to dampen expectations and not overexpose their young pitcher. But the 23-year-old has gone out and forced his manager's hand by allowing only two earned runs in 12.2 innings of work.

David Freese appeared to be the heir apparent at third base entering camp. Sometimes those types of expectations can be hard to live up to, but after a slow start, Freese appears up to the task. In a team-high 49 at bats, the slugger has posted a line of .306/.364/.449.

Adam Ottavino appeared to be returning to Springfield during the spring of 2009, but an impressive appearance against Team Dominican during the World Baseball Classic earned him a ticket to Triple-A. The former first round selection got off to a horrendous start but rebounded nicely to help his Redbirds teammates to the Pacific Coast League title. This spring, he was thought to have a return ticket to Memphis, but he has turned in another strong spring performance and kept himself around long enough to compete for a spot on the big league roster. His rebound after his struggles in 2009 has earned praises from Duncan and helped himself remain in the mix for a spot in the team's bullpen. The fireballing right-hander has straightened out his mechanics and posted a 1.93 ERA this spring in relief.

The team's reigning minor league Player of the Year, Allen Craig, has produced this spring as well. The utility man is slugging .605 with two home runs in 38 at bats. It appears that he has wrapped up a spot on the Cardinals bench.

Another outfielder with a strong spring is Nick Stavinoha. Often overlooked in the team's plans, the former LSU Tiger is hitting .366 in 41 at bats. He still appears a long shot to go north with the big club but he has certainly caught his skipper's eye.

Though he won't break camp with the club, Donovan Solano must believe that La Russa knows his name. The young infielder collected 11 hits in 19 at bats, definitely taking advantage of his limited opportunity.

Another young infielder that made his mark this spring is Daniel Descalso. Coming off appearances in the baseball World Cup and the Arizona Fall League, the 23-year-old second baseman hit .467 in 15 at bats.

Fernando Salas appears to be healthy once again after injuries derailed his 2009 season. Salas showed his exceptional control once again this spring with only one walk compared to nine strikeouts. It forced the hand of La Russa and Duncan to keep him around longer than expected and helped himself earn a probable call up during 2010.

Though he did not have a shot at the big league roster, Shelby Miller showed the promise that made him a number one pick last summer. The 19-year-old caught the eyes of the front office and coaching staff with impressive bullpen sessions and two shutout innings. Even though he won't be breaking camp with the Cardinals, the right-hander did earn himself a warmer spring. Originally thought to be headed to the Quad Cities, Miller now reportedly has a shot to start his first full season at Palm Beach.





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