Cards play the Nationals, Freese on cleanup


by Brian Feldman, News 4 Sports

Posted on March 11, 2012 at 10:06 AM

Updated Sunday, Mar 11 at 10:06 AM

(BaseballStL)--The Cards return from a rain shortened loss yesterday to face the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium...ironically, another game that could be threatened by rain.  Mike Matheny sends out the following lineup vs Washington:

 1) Shane Robinson - RF

2) Tyler Greene - DH

3) Matt Holliday - LF

4) David Freese - 3B

5) Lance Berkman - 1B

6) Yadier Molina - C

7) Jon Jay - CF

8) Daniel Descalso - 2B

9) Alex Cora - SS

 Jake Westbrook heads to the mound for his 2nd start of spring.  He'll be followed by a group consisting of Maikel Cleto, Adam Ottavino, Eduardo Sanchez, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas and RJ Swindle.

 Jake Westbrook continues to try and iron out issues that plagued him last year from spring training all the way through the season.  He said he never really felt comfortable and it showed in his statistics.  After his first start, Westbrook told me he is changing his delivery a touch to try and fix some problems he's been told about.  He says he's not going to bring his hands over his head (something he's always done) to try and alleviate some possible tipping of pitches.  Westbrook says as soon as he got to St. Louis in 2010 he thinks that could have been an issue.  Last year he says it definitely was an issue.  The key for a pitcher in making sure you don't telegraph what pitch you're about to throw is all about repetition.  You have to repeat the exact same delivery each and every pitch.  If you alter it slightly for your curveball or changeup or slider...the hitters will pick up on that.  Westbrook says he feels like not bringing his hands over his head will help him in repeating his delivery to avoid tipping.  I'm going to ask him after the game how hard it is at this point in his career to change your style.  Once you've done something for so long it has to be a challenge to make changes.

 Daniel Descalso gets his first start at 2nd base this spring.  Coming into Grapefruit League play the position was described as a competition between Tyler Greene, Skip Schumaker and Descalso.  However, a week into games and this is the first start Descalso has received.  All his other starts have come at 3rd base.  Most of the starts at 2nd have gone to Greene, who is the DH today.  What does this mean?  It means the Cards are curving this competition in favor of Tyler Greene.  He is getting the most opportunities because they want him to win the job.  Greene has the tools.  Speed, power, and pure athleticism; all traits that Descalso and Schumaker don't have.  The latter two could do a nice job if called upon...but neither have the potential to be a "plus" player there. 

 Shane Robinson gets to start in the outfield and leadoff again today.  We're now more than a week into games and he's still getting starts.  This is not an accident.  Now, we don't really have a track record for how Mike Matheny works as far as getting guys opportunities in spring games and how they translate to the decisions they make later on.  But when Tony La Russa was manager he gave starts to guys that earned it.  And if you are earning starts it means you've got a chance to make the team.  Will Matheny be the same way? It's too early to tell because we've never seen him do this before.  But from they way it's usually worked this means good things for Robinson.  Still, when it comes to looking at the open bench spots, there's a lot of competition.  Adron Chambers, Erik Komatsu, Matt Carpenter and Alex Cora are all right there with Robinson for one spot.  Possibly two if Allen Craig isn't ready right away.

Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are in the lineup however neither are hitting cleanup.  That duty is going to David Freese today.  Does this mean he could be getting some chances there during the season?  That's something I plan on asking Mike Matheny during our morning chat.  That will be posted online and on our apps as soon as I've got it.

 Be sure to check out and our mobile and iPad apps for the latest updates from spring training.

 --Brian Feldman, News 4 Sports