JUPITER, Fla — Over the next couple weeks before the Cardinals bolt Jupiter and head north, they’re going to start getting into the nitty gritty in preparing for the regular season. You’ll see starters pitch as if it’s a real game, you’ll see hitter take at-bats as if it’s a real game, you’ll see relievers put into situations they’ll see in real games.
Mike Matheny also said today you’re going to see bench players start to really show their versatility by playing multiple positions. Matt Carpenter is going to extend beyond second base and play some third, first, left field and right field.
Daniel Descalso will do something similar as well. His assignment will include shortstop.
On the surface, it may seem as if it’s not a huge deal that will only affect this club on a rare basis. And that’s true. To a point. You probably won’t see Daniel Descalso playing much shortstop during the regular season. It’ll happen, I’m sure, but not often.
What makes it so significant is what the Cardinals may do with their remaining bench spots because of that ability.
Let’s take a look at the Cardinals bench right now. Tony Cruz is on the club as a backup catcher. Ty Wigginton has a two year deal so he’s not going anywhere in the immediate future. Either Carpenter/Descalso (whoever’s not playing second) is on. So is, likely, Shane Robinson as a backup outfielder.
That, in theory, leaves one more spot for a position player to make the team. The only position that hasn’t been sufficiently covered thus far for depth is shortstop. Pete Kozma needs a backup, right? Ronny Cedeno is in camp on a nonguaranteed one year contract to give the team some protection. He could solidify that position and finish off the roster.
But what about Matt Adams? The former 699th overall draft pick is having a tremendous spring - .323 batting average and .912 OPS - and the Cardinals have said he’s got nothing left to prove at the minor league level. His issue is that he only plays 1st base. Nothing else.
So can you gamble with depth at shortstop by keeping Adams over Cedeno? Or do you play it safe by keeping Cedeno while sending a potential dynamite hitter in Adams back to Memphis?
That’s a question only GM John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny can answer. But, remember, Daniel Descalso is going to start playing there a little bit in the next few days. If he shows an ability to play that position - something he’s done in the past - Descalso could be the protection to Kozma the Cards seek, therefore making Cedeno unnecessary and opening up a spot for Adams.
There’s still a couple weeks left and Matheny has said they don’t have to make any clear cut decisions right now. So watch carefully the rest of spring training. Everything these guys do has an effect on the roster. One way or another.