(BaseballStL) -- Entering spring training competition was fierce pretty much all over the place. From who would be the 5th starter to who would emerge as the backup outfielder to what the composition of the bullpen would be, this was not a camp short on story lines.
Yet here we are with less than two weeks remaining in Jupiter and the 25-man roster seems to be filling up. If you take a look at all the evidence presented to us (lineups, statistics, carefully worded answers to questions) a lot of the intrigue appears to have ended.
Let's take a look at some storylines of spring training and how they have developed over the course of time:
The Matt Carpenter Experiment
I don't think anyone truly knew what to expect out of the utility player in his attempted transition to second base. This had a little of the same feel as Skip Schumaker attempting to move to second from the outfield back in 2009 but it wasn't completely similar. Schumaker had to learn the basics of fielding a ground ball having never been an infielder. Carpenter was much further along having been a third baseman his entire life.
Still, though, moving to the other side of second base is a big move. And the Cardinals, while publicly displaying confidence, couldn't possibly have known things would work out the way they have. Folks, Carpenter has been very solid at second. He's made every play that could reasonably be expected of him this spring training. He's gone to his left. He's gone to his right. He's turned double plays with a runner bearing down on him.
Meanwhile, the whole reason this transition started in the first place hasn't been affected at all. His hitting. Carpenter told me at the beginning of spring training that he got some advice from Schumaker regarding the move. The advice was, if he doesn't hit then none of this would be worth it. He has to hit. And hit Carpenter has. He's hit to the tune of a .410 batting average, a .489 on-base percentage and a 1.104 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
It's too early to tell exactly how Mike Matheny is going to divvy up the playing time at second base between Carpenter and incumbent starter Daniel Descalso - who hasn't played too poorly himself. It's not like one of them is a right-handed hitter where Matheny could use them strategically based on the pitcher (righty/lefty).
Either way, the Cards know they can count on Matt Carpenter at second base. Score one for the organization.
The Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller Competition
At the end of the 2012 playoffs, the Cardinals knew they had quite a good problem on their hands with the way their young pitching prospects had performed down the stretch. From Joe Kelly establishing himself as a big league pitcher throughout the regular season to Trevor Rosenthal overwhelming the Nationals and Giants in the postseason to Shelby Miller flashing moments of brilliance (like the final game of the regular season against the Reds) there was no shortage of talent.
How the Cardinals were going to use said talent in 2013 was a huge question coming into camp. Well, unfortunately, the issue got a little easier when Chris Carpenter went down for the season - quite possibly for his career - which opened up a spot in the rotation. GM John Mozeliak said the team had no interest in signing a free agent such as Kyle Lohse, he was intent on giving these prospects a shot at the rotation.
One of the candidates - Trevor Rosenthal - bowed out of the starter competition pretty early given how in love the team is with his potential out of the bullpen. A Grapefruit League opening performance of giving up four runs on five hits in just two innings didn't exactly do much to convince the team he should be a starter. Especially given how well Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller pitched soon after that.
This is a competition that hasn't quite ended yet. Kelly and Miller still have not yet decided once and for all who's going to be in the rotation. Kelly's stats (2.25 ERA in eight innings) are significantly better than Miller's (7.04 ERA in 7.2 innings) but the team is adamant that Miller's been better than his numbers suggest. Both will pitch tomorrow against the Marlins here at Roger Dean Stadium with Miller getting the start and Kelly relieving.
The Cards need to make a decision soon on this one. There's only a couple more starts left for that spot before the season begins and whoever is going to get it needs to build his pitch count up towards 100. Time is ticking.