We’ve been introduced to the players. Now the play is about to begin.
With spring training almost done–a very early start time for a game that is sure to fly by today gets the team to St. Louis before dark–the Cardinals announced their final roster moves yesterday. We know the 28 players who will wear the white and red and take a lap around the field on Thursday as part of the pageantry of Opening Day in St. Louis.
We’ve got the icons. Adam Wainwright will be on the hill throwing to Yadier Molina with Albert Pujols in the lineup. No matter what happens this season, these three are going to be the focus of it. If the team is succeeding, it’s going to be how great it is that these guys are going out (if Waino is actually going out) with a successful team. If they aren’t, the plaudits to this crew will help (the club will hope) take the attention off of what is happening on the field.
We’ve got the regulars. Nolan Arenado gets his first real St. Louis opener. Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong, both of whom had excellent springs, join him and Tommy Edman on the infield. (It sounds like Edman won’t be the leadoff hitter, though, which is a welcome change from new manager Oli Marmol.) One of the best outfields in baseball, consisting of Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neill, and Dylan Carlson, will be a lot of fun to watch this season.
We’ve got the bench. Edmundo Sosa looked like last year wasn’t a complete fluke this spring and hopefully will be a very solid backup. Corey Dickerson will platoon with Pujols in the DH spot and probably should have gotten the Opening Day start based on platoon advantage, but if you actually think Pujols wasn’t going to be in the lineup in his first game back at Busch wearing the home whites, I don’t know what to tell you because you are obviously delusional. You have Lars Nootbaar to pinch-hit and play the outfield when others need a day off and Andrew Knizner to back up Yadi, though it sounds like that’s going to be more like an actual backup catcher this year than a typical Yadi backup who explores the Amazon in May and June and nobody notices he’s not on the team.
We’ve got the rotation, even if it’s not completely filled. Following Uncle Charlie, in some order, will be Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and Steven Matz. That fifth spot still isn’t completely settled and with a day off on Friday, Wainwright could go on his normal rest and the fifth starter wouldn’t be needed until a week from Saturday. It seems like it’d down to Drew VerHagen and Jake Woodford, with the loser of that competition 1) going to the bullpen, 2) likely to make spot starts, and 3) ready to go if something happens to anyone in the starting five.
We’ve got the bullpen. Giovanny Gallegos would be considered the closer but it does feel like Marmol might be more willing to use him in the high leverage spots rather than just the ninth inning. Jordan Hicks, who I thought might start in the minors given his lengthy layoff, is ready to go for bullpen duty and how he is used could be a very interesting thread to follow this season. T.J. McFarland returns after a great run last season and Genesis Cabrera and Kodi Whitley, who were overall very strong last season, are out there as well. Aaron Brooks, signed from overseas this winter to a minor league deal, impressed enough that he got added to the 40-man roster and could be this year’s lightning in a bottle. Ryan Helsley is coming back from injury and hopefully can take that next step of consistency. Nick Wittgren, signed this winter, is a bit of a question mark but he’s also not got a contract that will require the Cardinals to stick with him should he struggle too long. Finally, there’s Andre Pallante, the only player on the roster making his major league debut. Another one of those Cardinal starter prospects that gets pressed into bullpen duty, it will be fun to watch him develop on the big stage.
And, of course, we’ve got those that probably will be there but won’t be able to contribute. Jack Flaherty starts on the 10-day injured list (which is only available for pitchers in April) and Alex Reyes will be on the 60-day. Hopefully Flaherty will be back by May, but there’s no telling on Reyes. If it was before the All-Star Break it would be pretty surprising.
These are the guys we’ll be following this season, or at least the beginning part of it. Opening Day is roughly 56 hours away from this post. We’ve made it through the winter, extended as it was by the lockout. It’s almost time, once again, for Cardinal baseball!