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Spring Training...

What's the point?

The games don't count.

The pitching stinks.

The hitting stinks.

Why should we care?

Why should we bother being interested when half of the guys on the field aren't even interested?

Because of days like today...

Today the Cardinals made their final cuts.  For some, it was a day of rejoicing.  For others, it was motivation to work harder.  In either case, we now know what our Cardinals are going to look like on Opening Day 2009.  Exciting, isn't it?

It took an entire Spring of battling to hash out who was staying and who was going.  Who was going to fill in for Glaus?  Who was going to close games?  Who was going to win that last roster spot?  Well, today was the day the questions were answered.  Today was our reason for bothering to pay attention before April 6th.

Congratulations to Rasmus, Freese, and Thurston.  I can only imagine the feeling of making the roster for the first time.  Sure, a September call-up is one thing...but coming into a year as an official member of the team?  That's got to be a dream come true for all of them.

Condolences to Mather and Perez.  I'm sure that both are disheartened by not cracking the roster after getting their first taste of the big leagues last year.  But, I wouldn't get too down if I were them.  I'm sure that we'll see them again in a Cardinal uniform before the year is finished.

So, now that we've been notified of the final cuts.  Let's see what our Cards look like, shall we?

Starting Pitching

Adam Wainwright
Kyle Lohse
Todd Wellenmeyer
Chris Carpenter
Joel Pineiro

Like any Cardinal fan, I'm excited as hell to see Carpenter's name back on that list

Keys:  Health and Consistency

If Wainwright and Carpenter can remain healthy enough for at least 30 starts a piece, and Lohse and Wellenmeyer can show some consistency and prove that last year wasn't a fluke...watch out NL Central

Bullpen

Josh Kinney
Brad Thompson
Kyle McClellan
Dennys Reyes
Trevor Miller
Ryan Franklin
Jason Motte

The bullpen was a particular area of concern for many fans this offseason.  Given the problems that transpired last season, I think that many of us felt that it was our greatest need heading into the Winter Meetings and Free Agency.  Mozeliak responded by signing 36 year old Trevor Miller.  Not exactly a confidence booster.  However, I think the Cards saved themselves with the Reyes signing.  He's a proven lefty specialist.  Something the Redbirds didn't really have last season.  And while it hasn't been officially stated (I don't think), it appears as though Larussa is going to be calling Jason Motte's name this season when the 9th inning rolls around.  He was a perfect 5 for 5 this Spring and I have to say that I really like the choice.  You like to have a closer that can put the ball past some guys, and with 18Ks in only 12 innings pitched this Spring...Motte can certainly do just that

Keys: Motte

Jason Motte is the key to the bullpen's success.  If he can nail down the 9th inning then everything else falls into place.  Franklin shuts em down in the 8th, Reyes and Miller take out the Prince Fielders and Ryan Howards of the league, and Kyle McClellan gets to continue being the super utility reliever- pitching whenever and however Larussa wants him to

 

Infield

Yadier Molina
Albert Pujols
Skip Schumaker
Khalil Greene
David Freese

Well, we know what we're getting with Yadi and Albert.  But, beyond that?  The Cardinals had a lot of question marks in the infield this offseason.  First, there was the issue of who was going to man Shortstop this year.  Cesar Izturis and Felipe Lopez were both slated to become Free Agents and Brendan Ryan remained the only man capable of playing the position left on the team.  So what did Mozeliak do?  He went out and acquired former Rookie of the Year, Khalil Greene.  At the time many questioned the move.  Were the Cardinals getting the 2008 version of Greene (.213/10/35) or the 2007 (.254/27/97)?  Well, after watching Greene hit the cover off the ball this spring (.408/1/17), let's just say I'm optimistic

After that, Mozeliak was faced with the decision to release Adam Kennedy (at a certain someone's request), and an injury to Troy Glaus.  Thus, he was left with two holes in the infield.  He immediately filled the Secondbase position with Skip Schumaker and recently awarded David Freese the fill in job at Thirdbase.  While we know Skip can hit, a transition from the outfield to the infield can be rough for any player.  He led the Cardinals with five errors this Spring.  But to his credit, he made those five errors on a total of 96 chances (second most on the team behind Pujols).  I'm sure that, as he gets more comfortable at the position, we'll see those error totals dissipate.  Meanwhile, Freese beat out Joe Mather for the job at Thirdbase.  Partially for his hot bat (.386 avg in 44 ABs) and partially because of Mather's struggles (.227 avg in 75 ABs).  In either case, Freese projects to be a solid defensive player with an adequate lower order bat

Keys:  Healthy Pujols

I know some might think getting Glaus back is going to be key, but if something were to go wrong with Pujols (God Forbid), the entire lineup would just crumble.  Pujols needs to have another strong year without any problems from his aching elbow.  If that happens, then I think the rest of the infield will fair just fine

Outfield

Rick Ankiel
Ryan Ludwick
Chris Duncan
Colby Rasmus

Is it just me, or is there anyone else out there excited to finally see Colby Rasmus' name on a Major League roster?  It seems like we've been hearing about this kid for so long.  Well, he'll finally get a shot to prove that he's worth all the hype. 

Avoiding arbitration with Ludwick and Ankiel was another big accomplishment of Mozeliak's this offseason.  He didn't get any long term deals worked out, but at least he didn't have to go through the whole messy process of arbitration.

Oh, and remember that guy named Chris Duncan?  No?  Well, you better get caught up.  From the looks of the Spring he just had (.302/4/19), he's completely healed and ready to knock another 25 out of the ballpark.

Keys: Repeat years from Ludwick and Ankiel coupled with a strong start from Rasmus

While we'd all love to see it happen, in all likelihood, Ankiel AND Ludwick are not BOTH going to be with the team next year (one maybe, but not both).  That means the Cardinals are going to have to consider moving one of them at the deadline this year (I know, I know.  The thought alone makes my stomach turn).  But, if Rasmus puts up strong first half numbers then this might make the decision a bit easier.  Suddenly you're not as worried about the drop off in production and you can look at turning either Ludwick or Ankiel into Jake Peavy.  Of course, it's all moot if Ludwick and Ankiel don't show up and play like they did last season.

Bench

Jason Larue
Brendan Ryan
Brian Barden
Joe Thurston

A solid group of backups.  Larue had a few clutch games for us last year.  Ryan and Thurston give us a little bit of speed.  And Barden is a solid defensive player at both third and second.

Keys:  That none of them see any significant playing time this year (because that would mean that someone got hurt)

So, that's it. 

Your Opening Day 2009 Cardinals.

What do you think?

Who is going to be key for the Cards this year?

What kind of finish can we expect?

Please, weigh in...

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