The Cards do battle with the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium while making a slight change atop the batting order. Tyler Greene gets an opportunity to lead off this afternoon. Here's the full lineup:
1) Tyler Greene - 2B
2) Carlos Beltran - RF
3) Matt Holliday - LF
4) David Freese - 3B
5) Lance Berkman - 1B
6) Yadier Molina - C
7) Jon Jay - CF
8) Rafael Furcal - SS
9) Jake Westbrook - P
Westbrook will be followed by a group consisting of Kyle McClellan, Mark Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas and Scott Linebrink.
Storylines to look for today:
-- Tyler Greene gets a chance to hit lead off. This fairly significant because at this point in spring you aren't necessarily "experimenting" with things you believe have no basis to use during the regular season. Rafael Furcal is the lead off man on this team, there's no doubt about it. But let's face it...he has not been able to stay healthy for a full 162 games the last couple seasons. The Cardinals have got to have a backup plan in mind in case he has to be out for a few months. Not just on the defensive end where Furcal has the most value to the club...but also hitting lead off. If Furcal were to go out, the obvious name to replace him would be Greene. He'd simply slide over to shortstop with someone like Daniel Descalso taking over at 2nd. Greene has not really been a consistent major league hitter to this point in his career so thinking he could get on base enough to help this lineup do some damage could be pushing it. For today...look to see how Greene works the count and acts like a true lead off hitter. He could be needed there at some point this year.
-- It's looking more and more like Mike Matheny is getting used to the idea of hitting Carlos Beltran 2nd in the order. He provides much more punch at the top than, say, Jon Jay. Wherever you hit Beltran you're going to sacrifice power somewhere else. If he's hitting 2 (with Holliday, Berkman and Freese following at 3-5) then your 2-5 spots will have some serious power potential. Molina would then hit 6 with Jay 7th. But if you move Jay up to 2 and put Beltran in the middle somewhere...that sacrifices power at the top with more down in the lineup. You'd have 3-6 being your power sources. At this point...it seems as if Matheny is leaning towards getting the damage more towards the top.
-- With a lefty going for the Mets today (Johan Santana) David Freese is drawing the assignment of hitting 4th instead of Lance Berkman. This is a reflection of the confidence the team has in Freese's ability to hit that maybe wasn't necessarily there in the past. They have always known Freese has been extremely capable. But to hit cleanup on occasion? I find it hard to believe even in the organization's wildest dreams did they think David Freese could be their cleanup hitter. Don't get me wrong...that job will go to Lance Berkman just about all the time. But against lefties instead of pushing it with Berkman (he's not as good hitting right-handed against a lefty as he is hitting left-handed against a righty) they can now get a little more protection for Matt Holliday by going with Freese. He's come a long way. But what will that mean for Freese going forward? Could be eventually be THE cleanup hitter here once Berkman goes? I wouldn't put it past him and his ability to be able to do that.
-- Mitchell Boggs is slated to throw again today in relief of Westbrook (whether he gets in remains to be seen based on the situation). Boggs has had a rough spring. He's given up runs in most of his appearances. Looking at the numbers and who might make the team it's going to be tough. There are going to be some hard decisions to be made. Between Jason Motte, Lance Lynn (currently a starter with Chris Carpenter out), Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, Scott Linebrink and Boggs on the right side and with Mark Rzepczynski and JC Romero on the left...some quality pitchers won't be making the active 25-man roster to start the year. Now, with Carpenter out and Lynn a starter that could (and probably will) mean someone will make the team for a bit until Carp returns. But still, there's a name on that list who could be out. Sanchez has options remaining to go to the minors so he could be a possibility. But what about Boggs? He's struggled in camp while Sanchez has been outstanding. How can you possibly keep Boggs over Sanchez based on their performances. Boggs has some work to do...and it starts today if he gets in the game.