Edging Closer To Actual Games

The weather outside wouldn’t tell you it, of course.  Both here and St. Louis are expected to have more winter weather tomorrow, hopefully the last we’ll see before the end of 2015.  It’s cold and miserable.  Which makes the Jupiter happenings even that more important, bringing warm feelings to cold folks.

Many clubs will kick off their slate of spring games today.  A few have played some college teams (and that didn’t go well for the Phillies) but this is the first time there’s been an opportunity to see two major league teams face off since the Giants and the Royals last saw each other in October.  There are three games showing on the MLB At Bat app as being televised today and I’m sure others will be on the radio.  Baseball is returning to melt that frozen heart of yours.

The Cards aren’t one of those teams going today, however.  In fact, they’ve got a couple more days, starting on Thursday against their roommates at Roger Dean, the Marlins.  They already know who is going to start that game, however, as it’ll be our first chance to see Carlos Martinez as a starter this season.  (There’s no TV for that one, which is disappointing as I possibly could be snowed in and have a chance to watch it, but it will be on KMOX and nothing says springtime and summer like John Rooney and Mike Shannon.)  I’m not as advanced on the Martinez bandwagon as some are, though I’m hopeful he’ll bring me around.  I want to see if he’s showing some command and he’s able to go deep into games.  We won’t be able to see the latter for a while, of course, as the pitchers build up arm strength, but it’d be nice if he was consistently around the plate on Thursday.

After Martinez, the Patron Pitcher of the Blog is scheduled to appear.  Unsurprisingly, I’m quite interested in seeing what Tyler Lyons will do and what the team plans for him.  I’d think the health of Jaime Garcia could be a complicating factor, assuming the club doesn’t put Garcia on some sort of rehab assignment to start the year.  Even so, the pen has a lot of lefties and there are a number of folks that can even be a long man.  I hope Lyons gets it, but we’ll have to see how the spring plays out.

Adam Wainwright is back and throwing, even though he’s not quite fully healed from his abdominal strain.  I’ll admit, I’m not a doctor and perhaps I shouldn’t be, but I really expected Wainwright to be pretty limited until he was good and healed, not throwing off a mound.  However, it sounds like that’s not as much of an issue as running, twisting, and the like, which does make some sense.  While the Cards don’t want him throwing just a ton this spring to save wear and tear on the arm, you have to make sure that the arm is ready to go when you want it to be.  Hopefully Wainwright has some of the same super healing properties that Yadier Molina absorbed from Albert Pujols and we’ll be good to go in no time.

Tara and I talked about this a little on Gateway to Baseball Heaven Sunday (and I’m sure you’ve all listened to that), but Jon Jay is still recovering from his wrist surgery while Peter Bourjos is seemingly healthy and ready to go.  Bourjos has also apparently retooled his swing now that his hip isn’t bothering him so much.  It was Bourjos’s slow recovery from wrist surgery in 2014 that led Jay to reclaim center field and never let it go.  Wouldn’t it be ironic (don’t you think) if Bourjos returned the favor this year?  I know some of our UCB members, especially Marilyn Green, have been big on Bourjos and believe we didn’t see the best out of him last year.  If Bourjos’s swing adjustments lead him to a hot start, his defense is so good that it becomes a little more difficult for Jay to reclaim the job on the merits.  Now, I have no doubt that he’d be installed as the center fielder when he returned, but if Bourjos can show that he can be an offensive weapon as well, maybe we get more of a platoon situation than we had last year.  I’m intrigued with this idea and I look forward to seeing if Bourjos can force the issue with a good spring.

There’s some talk today about how right-handed-heavy the bench is for the Cardinals, which actually works out somewhat OK in my mind since the lineup is more left-handed-heavy than you’d usually see.  That said, when it comes to pinch-hitting and the like in the late innings, getting the hand advantage could be a big deal.  Derrick Goold suggests that perhaps Greg Garcia or Dean Anna (or switch-hitter Ty Kelly) could break through that right handed stranglehold.  The problem is, who do you replace?  Tony Cruz is a lock.  Mark Reynolds will be there.  We’ve talked about Bourjos, no expectation he’s going anywhere (and, to be fair, if Jay struggles he could be a lefty on the bench).  That leaves Pete Kozma and Randal Grichuk.  Kozma’s out of options and I don’t think the Cards throw him overboard because he “hits” righthanded.  They love the glove and that’s made them hesitant to cut him loose.  I guess you could send Grichuk down and let him get regular starts in Memphis, though that leaves only Bourjos to back up the entire outfield.  (Yes, Kelly has played some outfield, but that’s not his major specialty and this isn’t Tony La Russa we are talking about, putting players wherever.)  I think one of those guys is going to have to have a tremendous spring (or Grichuk is going to have to struggle, which is possible) for that scenario to play out, but we’ll see over the coming month.

Pepper continues this afternoon with those Redlegs from Cincinnati, so come back for that after lunch!

  • Ben Chambers

    I’m a fan of having Ty Kelly on the bench instead of Grichuk. It’s not because Kelly’s a switch hitter, but because comparing AA and AAA numbers, I think Kelly’s the best hitter of the lot. Grichuk could also use more time learning how to hit breaking balls in AAA. His numbers in the majors last year didn’t blow anyone away.

    That said, I don’t think you need a 5th outfielder on the team. It’s going to be enough for Matheny to figure out how to get Bourjos enough starts without adding Grichuk to that mix. If an outfielder gets injured in-game, you can put Bourjos in and move Jay over (unless Jay is the one hurt) just like they likely will late in games for defense anyway, and call up Grichuk the next day. They can send Kelly down if they don’t think it’s serious enough to have a DL move and swap them back in 10 days.

    Now, if two outfielders get hurt in the same game is where the trouble lies. I only think it’s a problem if the two guys who get hurt are Jay and Bourjos. Carpenter has played a corner outfield spot in a pinch before. Give Kozma a glove and let him run around out there and it won’t hurt bad for a couple innings. If Jay and Bourjos do get hurt in the same game without Grichuk on the bench, move Heyward into CF for the rest of the game and he’ll be fine there for one day.

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