Whittling A Team Out Of A Group

The Cards sent three more players to minor league camp yesterday.  Tim Cooney, Lee Stoppelman and Travis Tartamella.  Of course, none of these were expected to be on the roster–though Stoppelman was my dark horse to make an impact on this season–and it’s more about carving out the actual 2014 St. Louis Cardinals out of the mass of bodies that are in camp.

That mass is getting smaller seemingly on a daily basis.  With less than two weeks left, just 10 more games in Florida plus a quick stop in Memphis, playing time is going to get increasingly rare for folks that don’t have a chance, thus the demotions yesterday.

You’ll notice that Ben Humphrey has a great matrix in the initial link showing who is still in camp.  Out of the folks that didn’t have a job coming into camp, it’s interesting to see that Pat Neshek, Stephen Piscotty and Xavier Scruggs are still with the team.  Neshek, who welcomed a son into the world this week with more trepidation than any of us hopefully will, given his history, seems quite likely to make this club after room is made on the 40-man roster for him.  It’s good to have that veteran presence in a group of youngsters, even if the youngsters for the most part have been tempered by the fires of the postseason.  Seth Maness‘s struggles this spring prove that nothing is guaranteed with those guys.

One of the ways they decide who to send down is to play actual games.  I know, crazy, huh?  They did that yesterday against the Boston Red Sox and got beat around 10-5.  Well, they might be a bit of an overstatement. After all, they did score five runs and had a lead twice.  It was more the fact that Patron Pitcher of the Blog Tyler Lyons had nothing, giving up five runs in less than two innings.  Lyons had a good initial outing in the spring, but then has scuffled mightily since then.  I feel it’s more likely that Lyons goes to Memphis to be an emergency starter, but all indications in various media–who tend to know more about this stuff than I do–is that Lyons could be the long reliever for the Redbirds.  Either way, he’s got to have more success than he’s had the last couple of times out or he won’t be anywhere close to St. Louis.

Shelby Miller got the start and, again, gave up a two-out homer as his major flaw.  Honestly, if Miller gave up 32 home runs, one per start, I would be fine with it if that’s the only problem he’s got and it’s the only runs he’s allowing.  Miller’s looked fairly good this spring (though he seemed to have a little trouble with the strike zone yesterday, which may have been a factor of being concerned about the wind and the ballpark) and I’m excited to see him with a year of experience under his belt.

Remember when we were all concerned about Kolten Wong and trying to figure out if he could loosen up and enjoy playing?  Wong went 3-4 yesterday and his now hitting .394 on the spring.  It’s like nine at bats is a small sample!  Seriously, though, Wong looks much better and has to be full of confidence right now.  Hopefully that will help him when he hits the inevitable rough patch in the bigs this season.

With Wong and Peter Bourjos being guys that can move faster than a speeding Molina (I’d say most of us are, but then again I have a feeling Yadier Molina might just beat me in a race.  He’d definitely get me in distance!), there’s the thought that we’ll see more activity on the basepaths this year.  If nothing else, the numerous stories that talk about the Cardinals’ speed have to be giving other teams something to think about when they are planning for the club.  It’s interesting that St. Louis, a team famed for its baserunning in the past, hasn’t had a guy steal 20 bases since 2008.  The game has certainly changed from the Runnin’ Redbirds of the ’80s, but that’s quite a significant shift.

It’s going to be fun to see these guys go first-to-third or maybe even score on a long single in the right circumstances.  Where dropping down a bunt isn’t just for sacrificing and has a tolerable chance of succeeding.  Where you actually have to pay attention when some of these runners are on base.  I don’t know how much straight stealing we’ll see–more than we are used to, I’m sure–but it’s going to be enough of a threat to see a lot more pickoff attempts.

Reading that story, something unrelated popped out at me.  Daniel Descalso is hitting .370 this spring?  Wow, I didn’t realize he’d been doing so well.  With all the games in the afternoon, I’ve not watched as many as I’d like and usually it seems Pete Kozma is playing in the games I do see.  (Kozma seems to often be getting a hit, which is why I was a bit surprised he was at .231 in Florida.)  I expected Kozma’s glove to be the deciding factor between those two, but if there’s any reason to think that Descalso can sustain that kind of production, even a fraction of it, Kozma may be the one walking in Memphis.  (Well, playing there.  I’m not sure he’ll draw many walks.)

The Cardinals may have an off-day today, but this blog isn’t taking a breather.  It’s time for the Favorite Living Cardinal Tournament to kick off!  At 8 AM, the polls open for the Arch Region, that ’80s-themed bracket headed up by Ozzie Smith.  At 10 AM, the Ballpark Village Region full of pitchers and catchers report and you’ll see folks like Mike Matheny and Tim McCarver in action.  When noon comes, the Champions Region begins, with Lou Brock (speaking of speed) getting into the mix.  Finally, at 2 PM, the Diamond Region begins, with current Cardinal Jason Motte and the old Redhead taking on opponents.

Of course, we’re not going to neglect the Pepper series with this March madness.  We’re talking about those Pittsburgh Pirates this afternoon at 1 PM.  Which basically means keep your browser pointed at C70 At The Bat today and you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained!

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