Some Spring Training Stories

by Eugene Tierney on February 18, 2010

With pitchers and catchers showing up today, my excitement for the upcoming season has increased.  Here are the things to really watch for this spring:

I’m looking forward to the third base battle.  I think Freese really didn’t do himself any favors with that DWI; as a result, he’s going to have to work for the position.  Allen Craig should really get more of a look than most of the other competitors.  His defense may not be at the level of Freese, but the man has hit at every level.  He should be on the roster as a back up corner option.  Joe Mather would be a outside shot to get the position.  He looked good in his initial call up, but has been either injured or ineffective since then.  He struggled badly last year, so I think he’ll have to prove he’s back to his 2008 level before he gets a real shot.  Tyler Greene is another option.  He’s a quality fielder at short, so he should be able to handle the position well.  I’m worried about his offense; he won’t hit for much power and Tony is not one to let his players run wild on the base paths.  He’s a better option for…

Shortstop was just made interesting in the last few weeks since Brendan Ryan’s surgery.  I’m not getting into the timing of the surgery, since that’s another issue.  They say he’ll be ready for the beginning of the season, but I don’t think he’ll be in the opening day line up.  We hear the same thing every year (like Troy Glaus will be ready for the beginning of the season), so I’m not holding my breath.  I think Tyler Greene is the best option; Julio Lugo will see quite a bit of time there too.  I don’t really see too many other options within the organization.

The 5th starter will also be an interesting competition.  Personally, I like Jaime Garcia over the long run, but I can see the team being cautious with him.  You don’t want a young pitcher recently off of Tommy John surgery being thrown into something he’s not ready for.  I could see him starting the season at Memphis to see if he’s really ready.  Rich Hill was a low risk, high reward signing; if he can pitch like he did in his good season with the Cubs, he’d be a solid 5th starter.  Of course, it’s been a couple of years since he’s been effective.  Kyle McClellan is another option, but I’m not high on it.  I think he could be a great starter; I don’t like the fact that he’s had major arm problems in the past and hasn’t thrown more than 80 innings in a season since 2004.  I would have him start the season in the Memphis rotation.  That leaves Blake Hawksworth and Mitchell Boggs.  We know that the organization likes both guys in the bullpen.  Hawksworth would be my choice out of the 2.  I’d also take a flier on Evan MacLane, who pitched very well in the Memphis rotation last year.  He won’t set the world on fire, but he’d be a quality 5th starter.  I wouldn’t push Lance Lynn into the MLB rotation yet; let him start the season at Springfield and have him in Memphis by the end of the season (or in St. Louis for a September call up).

The Bench should be interesting.  First off, no Joe Thurston; it was nice having a guy that could fill in all over the infield, but his inexperience showed a lot at times last year, specifically on the base paths.  It’s nice seeing a guy like him get a chance, but they don’t always work out (ask Abraham Nunez).  This year will see Julio Lugo in the Aaron Miles role; only he can play the infield better than Miles did.  He’s also free, which is a nice addition.  LaRue is back handling the back up catching duties.  As I said before, either Freese or Craig will be on the bench for the back up corners; my guess would be Craig since he’s got more experience in the outfield and I think Freese will get the third base job.  I’d say Greene (or who ever starts the season in Brendan Ryan’s spot) will get a spot eventually.  The final spot is the question.  It’ll be an outfielder, but who?  Jon Jay is a nice player, but do you want him to continue to develop every day in Memphis?  Nick Stavinoha and Shane Robinson are both back up outfielders, but neither offer much off the bench (Robinson has a little speed, but again Tony doesn’t let his players run much).  There is Mather again, but I’ve already addressed that.  I could see the Cards making a small deal, whether it be a minor league free agent or trading for a guy who’s out of options and cheap; it won’t be an earth shattering move though.

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