The Spring Paradox

While it finally became officially spring yesterday, in the baseball world spring is just about over.  This weekend, we’ll see official games between Arizona and Los Angeles (played in Australia, but they still count) and one week from today will be the last game in Jupiter.  Things are starting to come to a head.

Which means the games, while still fairly meaningless, do have a bit more import.  You’d like to see the Cards start winning this last week instead of continuing to limp along with a sub-.500 record.  It’s not vital, it’d just be nice.

So it was slightly disappointing to see the Cardinals fall to the Marlins yesterday.  You could still console yourself that the deciding run came off a pitcher in Scott McGregor that is unlikely, though it’s not a guarantee, to go north with the team, but they liked McGregor enough to do the semi-rare thing of promoting him from minor league camp while they were demoting others.  He’s in the race for that bullpen spot, even if it’s just on the fringe.

Lance Lynn, who was coming off that dominant 10-strikeout performance, wasn’t nearly as sharp this time.  Of course, that’s to be expected–10 K outings aren’t exactly commonplace for Lynn–but issuing three walks in just four innings isn’t the way you want to go about your day.  Again, you pretty much ignore that 6.35 ERA for the spring, but since he probably has just one more start this spring, he needs a better one next time out.

What is interesting is the sudden attention being paid to Jorge Rondon, who hasn’t allowed a run this spring in 7.1 innings.  Rondon threw another scoreless one yesterday and has been seeing some high leverage innings (or as high leverage as spring games get) recently, including coming in yesterday with the Cardinals only down one.  Rondon, who was first brought to my attention by our friend Bob Netherton, seems to be the leader for the Jason Motte Seatwarmer Chair in the bullpen.  It seems likely that whomever the last guy is, Motte will replace them when he’s ready in (potentially) early May.

While Rondon’s been obviously very effective this spring, it sounds like this decision would be as much as an acknowledgement of his approach rather than the seven scoreless he’s put up.  After all, we keep saying that spring results don’t matter, yet they can be the difference between being on the home team or the visitors when St. Louis visits Memphis next Saturday.  Rondon has had control issues in the past, but it seems like he’s taken his instruction to heart and has only walked two.  What’s worrisome is that he’s had 10 baserunners this spring and while he’s worked out of his jams, it would seem the law of averages might catch up to him.  Still, he’s been effective–more than most that he’s competing with, as only Sam Freeman has been within shouting distance of him–and that might be enough for a month in the bigs.

Some general talk about Pete Kozma being traded seems to be floating about.  Given this spring, where Daniel Descalso has outplayed him and gives the team more versatility (plus costs more), it seems very unlikely that Kozma would make the squad and given all the folks that are in the system that could pass him, he might not return to St. Louis for a long while.  If the Cards could get anything out of him or provide him with a place to play regularly, they probably will.  The problem is that even teams with an obvious shortstop need might not be all that enamored with a guy that has such a weak bat, even if he’s got a strong glove.  It would be kinda funny if he wound up on the Tigers, though, since he’d then be playing behind Rick Porcello, the guy Cardinal fans have often moaned was skipped in the 2007 draft in favor of Kozma.  All that said, if he did get moved, it’s not likely anything of substance would come back this way.

While we’re talking about shortstops, Aledmys Diaz will make his big league debut (as it were) today, being available when the Cardinals face the Nationals.  I’m interested to see how this guy plays but I hope he’s ticketed for AA Springfield, because I’m planning to see them when they come through Little Rock in about a month.  Diaz is an intriguing guy that may not pan out as a big start, but if nothing else he’s the new shiny object that many Cardinal fans want to focus on.

Adam Wainwright goes for St. Louis today against the Nats in what should be a good game to see just where the Cards are in relation to another NL contender.  Wainwright also goes up against Matt Holliday in the second round of the Favorite Living Cardinal Tournament this afternoon, but we’ll start that off with the Arch Region at 8 AM, with others at 10, 12 and 2.  Plus we have Seattle’s Playing Pepper this afternoon as well, so it’s another busy day here at the blog.

If you’ve not signed up for The Bird’s Eye View yet, here’s the link.  Everyone that was already signed up got the season preview email yesterday, but we’ll forward that on to you if you sign up between now and the beginning of the season.  Enjoy your Friday!

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