(BaseballStL)--The Cardinals take on the Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium this afternoon with lefty Jaime Garcia on the mound for the 'birds. Who's roaming center field? That would be Carlos Beltran for the first time this spring.
1) Tyler Greene - 2B
2) Carlos Beltran - CF
3) Matt Holliday - LF
4) David Freese - 3B
5) Yadier Molina - C
6) Rafael Furcal - SS
7) Shane Robinson - RF
8) Tony Cruz - 1B
9) Jaime Garcia - P
Garcia will be followed by a group consisting of Jason Motte, Mark Rzepczynski, Scott Linebrink, Eduardo Sanchez and JC Romero.
Here are the storylines to follow for today:
-- Carlos Beltran getting a run in center field is storyline number one this afternoon. When Beltran signed with the Cardinals it was a solid fit with his bat. The Cards needed offense to replace Albert Pujols. That much was clear. But where exactly did his bat fit into the lineup? Was he going to get a chance to play some center field that was his normal position coming up in the majors or was the team going to go more conservative with it and play him in right like he has done the last couple seasons following knee surgery? Publicly, the Redbirds have said he's their starting right fielder who can play center. In fact just this morning Matheny said Beltran would play CF against lefties. But look at the lineup and who's in it depending on what decision is made there. If Beltran plays right, Jon Jay has to play center (or someone like Erik Komatsu). Lance Berkman most likely is at first base in that scenario. Who's missing there? Allen Craig, one of the best bats on the club who still doesn't have an obvious everyday role. But if you slide Beltran over to CF, that opens up a spot in RF for Craig. You can have ALL of their bats in the lineup that way. It's worth watching how Beltran handles center today.
-- There is no news on Chris Carpenter. He is back in St. Louis still going through his third day of testing. Mike Matheny said they didn't know anything more today that they didn't know yesterday.
-- Allen Craig is set to take fly balls in the outfield today. He called it a big day and so did Mike Matheny. Matheny even publicly stated that they are more realistic about the fact Craig could be ready Opening Day than they were with that idea recently. That doesn't mean it'll happen. Craig could still suffer a setback. But for right now, they're still hopeful for that. If Craig is indeed ready to play from the get go then that shortens up the opportunity for someone on the bench. Though it was expanded by one when Skip Schumaker went out with an oblique injury this week. So technically the opportunities are still the same as they were when they entered camp. But it looks like Erik Komatsu has a very legitimate chance to make the team as a backup outfielder since he's a Rule 5 pick and can't be sent back to the minors before being offered back to his original club.
-- Even though it's a lefty and Mike Matheny said today that he was using his lineup almost exactly the way he would against a lefty during the season (sans Allen Craig) it is noteworthy that Shane Robinson gets into the lineup. Technically, of all the other outfielders he is the only right hander. So that rules out Komatsu, Adron Chambers and Matt Carpenter. Still...if you're getting starts at this point in spring it means you're doing something right. They could ways go out and find someone else who stands in the batter's box right-handed to take swings. Robinson is a small spark plug who is similar in a lot of ways to David Eckstein. He's certainly not the biggest or the strongest or have all the tools of other players. But he's got a grit about him coaches love. I still say he goes back to AAA though.
--Brian Feldman, Baseball StL