Just ten days until the opener for Cardinal Nation, and I'm more optimistic right now than I have been all winter. I've been pretty vocal on this site regarding the Cards lack of activity this winter and the failure to fill needs. Especially galling is how much this approach was in direct conflict to the words flowing from management's mouth the last two years about how this was the off-season they would spend money to seriously upgrade the roster. Instead, they are going to enter 2009 with a payroll roughly $5 Million less than 2008.
Now is not the time for griping over that, however. Now is the time for Spring optimism, and I think there are good reasons to feel positive about the Birds. A handful of things have happened recently that have improved my outlook from where it was just a couple of weeks ago:
- Chris Carpenter's Spring: Carp has been brilliant this spring, and probably more importantly, looks to be healthy for the first time in a couple of years. His health was the biggest question mark facing the team in the off-season, and a return to Ace form will go a long way in 2009 toward helping the Cards contend for the post-season.
- Ryan Ludwick's Bat: Luddy has had a very slow and concerning spring after signing his first big contract over the winter. However, he has come alive over the last week, and seems to be back in form. His RBI production is going to be key early, particularly with Troy Glaus out of the lineup until at least mid-May.
- Dennys Reyes Signing: May not seem like a huge deal, but lefty relief was one of my biggest worries through the winter and early part of Spring Training. I'm not sold on Trever Miller as the answer, and the other bargain basement guys John Mozeliak brought in were not getting it done. Adding an experienced LH specialist like Reyes is just what the doctor ordered.
There are still a number of concerns: why has Adam Wainwright been so inconsistent this spring? Is David Freese going to be productive at 3rd? Is Skip Schumaker going to handle the defensive responsibility of playing 2B? and probably most importantly, Who the heck is going to close?? Plenty of items here to make Cardinal Nation fret. With my fears alleviated somewhat on the above three items, though, I feel good about where we are to open the season, and I'm ready for it to start.
Let the countdown begin at 10......it's almost baseball season.