Back when spring training opened up, Allen Medlock and I on Meet Me at Musial predicted the Opening Day 25 man roster. While many of those were locks–really, there’s only ever probably 2-3 spots that could be considered up for grabs–there’s no doubt that there are some folks heading to New York that were unexpected even before yesterday.
While the different position battles–Carson Kelly versus Francisco Pena, Harrison Bader versus Yairo Munoz, Mike Mayers versus John Brebbia–had been decided in the last week (with Luke Gregerson‘s injury rendering the last one moot), the news that Adam Wainwright had come up lame with a hamstring injury meant that the club had to reverse course from last week, recalling Jack Flaherty after already burning an option on him. That’s not likely to matter–Flaherty will probably see Memphis sometime this season anyway after Wainwright gets better, and even if he doesn’t he’s close enough to St. Louis to probably not need that option in the future–but it’s something to note.
Obviously, everyone loves Flaherty. The Birds on the Black guys rave about him. It feels pretty certain that Flaherty will be very good in the future. The question remains, is that future now? We saw him scuffle a bit at the big league level last year. Whether it was unfamiliarity or fatigue (as Kyle suggests), the fact is we’ve not seen him be consistently successful in the bigs yet. He’ll probably get there. He’ll probably be very good this year. But we don’t know exactly what we’ll get or if we’ll get it every time he goes out there.
This is not to say that Wainwright was some rock solid portion of the rotation. It’s more to say that we’ve exchanged one uncertainty for another. It’s very possible that this for the good of the Cardinals. We just don’t know yet. Because even with lesser stuff, we’ve seen Wainwright be better this spring. The experience and knowledge that he has can offset his older, less live arm. So, as Tara Wellman and I spoke about last night, this isn’t necessarily the obvious upgrade that everyone expects it to be.
I’m also not sure what it says that both Wainwright and Gregerson, two veterans who have been through conditioning drills numerous times in their career, both come up with hamstring issues going through them this spring. Are they different drills? Are they just old guys (and I say that knowing that I’m over half a decade older than both) that are going to have to deal with these tweaks and glitches as their body ages? Is it really the result of Wainwright and Matt Carpenter‘s prank war, as Tara suggested, with Gregerson as collateral damage? I don’t know. It probably is just a coincidental fluke but I imagine there are some in the training staff that are going over those drills trying to figure out if there is a connection.
As mentioned, with Gregerson hurting, both Mike Mayers, who had the dominant spring, and John Brebbia, who was an important part of last year’s bullpen, get the trip to New York at least. (I would expect both would get to participate in Opening Day festivities at Busch, but you never can be sure.) That would have been an interesting decision to make if the Cards had been forced to make it, but this works out pretty well overall. (And I know, I know, there are people out there saying “Well, if they’d have cut Bud Norris they could have brought both anyway” but we’ve talked about that, people.)
Going with Munoz over Bader is an interesting call, one that seems to be driven by Munoz’s flexibility. Which, if you are only going to be able to have a bench of three people (because Pena is rarely going to be called on in a game he’s not starting–which means he’s rarely going to be called on) it probably helps that one of them can play both infield and outfield. Greg Garcia is fine as the backup but it’s good to have Munoz be able to fill in there and at third as well. With Carpenter also able to cover second and third (and Jedd Gyorko can cover short in a pinch if necessary), hopefully the Cards have the flexibility they need. How that flexibility is used is always going to be the question, at least until we see what Mike Matheny does this season.
Bader’s demotion does make a clog at Memphis, a clog that pushes folks back to Springfield that should probably have taken the step up. My feeling was that Bader had less development left than Munoz, which made him a better choice for a bench role in St. Louis. Then again, it feels to me like Munoz might have already captured the interest of the manager and we could see a lot of him over the next month or so, even getting in outfield work. Which will probably have most of us scratching our heads and saying, “Don’t we already have a lot of outfielders? Wouldn’t he be better in the infield?” You just know something like that, something like overuse of a new toy, is coming.
Cardinals are in Montreal today, preparing to take on the Blue Jays in a couple of exhibitions tonight and tomorrow night. Michael Wacha, who now gets the slot behind Carlos Martinez in the rotation and will take the ball for the home opener in 10 days, goes up against Marcus Stroman as St. Louis will get to see old friends long gone. Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz are likely to be in the starting lineup, while you’d guess Seung-hwan Oh, who just recently made his spring debut, will get into one of these games as well. (More importantly, there hopefully will be shots of Eugene Koo, who we are all feeling the loss of under the Arch.) Tonight’s game is only televised by the Blue Jays, while tomorrow night FOX Sports Midwest should have the moving pictures. The season is coming!