Garcia makes first start in nearly 9 months -

Garcia makes first start in nearly 9 months

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 By Brian Feldman, Baseball STL

VIERA, Fla. (Baseball STL) -- First it was Carlos Martinez to make his impression on the Cardinals in his bid to win a spot in the starting rotation.  Then Marco Gonzales got his turn.  Now it's Jaime Garcia's chance.  This is no ordinary start though.  It's Garcia's first since June 20th last year at Busch Stadium.


He had surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome and missed the remainder of 2014.


What will become of the 28-year old lefty is impossible to project.  His stuff is arguably the best on the entire staff but staying healthy has been quite a challenge for him over his career.  He's made just 16 starts over the last two years and 36 over the last three.


Even if he pitches well this spring it may be hard for the Cardinals to justify putting him in the rotation over, say, Martinez.  A potential rehab assignment to prove health and durability could be in the works.  But injuries and unexpected performances always seem to change an organization's thinking.


Here's today lineup in Viera as the Cardinals play their first road Grapefruit League game this afternoon against the Washington Nationals:


1) Kolten Wong - 2B

2) Peter Bourjos - CF

3) Matt Adams - DH

4) Randal Grichuk - RF

5) Scott Moore - 3B

6) Xavier Scruggs - 1B

7) Tony Cruz - C

8) Rafael Ortega - LF

9) Pete Kozma - SS


Following Garcia will be a group consisting of Carlos Villanueva, Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Walden, John Gast, Miguel Socolovich, Sam Freeman and Marcus Hatley.


-- Randal Grichuk finally gets into a game after taking off a few days with a stiff lower back.  His absence allowed Stephen Piscotty to make a couple starts but the Stanford grad went 0-4 in those two games.  What Grichuk does in spring training will go a long way in determining what the scope of the bench looks like.  He has a power element to his game that's unmatched by (arguably) anyone on the team, let alone anyone he's competing with for a spot on the roster.  Grichuk's issues are facing right-handed pitching.  He mashes lefties.  But righties have been a problem.  He'll get a big time test today against the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg.  


-- Xavier Scruggs draws the start at 1st base because Matt Adams is getting a half day off by serving as the designated hitter.  Scruggs is on the outskirts of the group attempting to crack the roster for the bench.  If there are five spots available and a couple are locked down by Tony Cruz and Mark Reynolds that leaves just three open.  Pete Kozma, starting today at shortstop, would appear to have a good chance at sticking due to him being the only true shortstop behind Jhonny Peralta.  Many believe Peter Bourjos is a lock as well.  That would leave just one spot.  Grichuk, of course, figures to get a look there.  So does Tommy Pham, who went 4-4 yesterday against the Astros.  Ty Kelly is in that conversation as well.  But Scruggs can make a name for himself in camp as well.  He's learning to play the outfield and hits for power too.  A big game against Strasburg would do well for him.? 

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