(Baseball StL) -- The Cards face Johan Santana and the Mets today at Roger Dean Stadium as the Redbirds enter their final full week of Grapefruit League play. Here's the lineup backing Jake Westbrook:
1) Rafael Furcal - SS
2) Carlos Beltran - CF
3) Matt Holliday - LF
4) David Freese - 3B
5) Matt Carpenter - 1B
6) Tyler Greene - 2B
7) Shane Robinson - RF
8) Tony Cruz - C
9) Jake Westbrook - P
Storylines to watch out for:
-- The thing that jumps out to me with the lineup today is Matt Carpenter immediately getting a start at 1st base, hitting 5th, against a lefty. You look at the lineup and there's nothing totally shocking about it since Santana is pitching. Furcal is the only righty to hit at the top (besides Greene...but he's hitting 6th...something Furcal can't really do). Beltran is entrenched in the 2nd spot. Shane Robinson is the only right-handed option in the OF to man that other spot since Allen Craig isn't quite ready. And Tony Cruz is a righty to give the day off to Yadier Molina as opposed to the left-handed Bryan Anderson. But for Carpenter, with Alex Cora getting his unconditional release yesterday, that all but ensures he makes the team.
Carpenter has been every bit as good this March as he was last March. In fact, it's possible he's been a little bit better. First of all, he couldn't play anything but 3rd last year. He did get some time in the outfield but didn't look as smooth as he does now. And, most important of all, he's driving the ball with more power than he did a year ago. This is a guy that will never hit 20-25 home runs in a season but he's got the ability to hit 15 or so. What they need from him on a consistent basis is gap power...and he's showing more of that this year than he did in the past.
Let's face it. Matt Carpenter has nothing more to prove at the minor league level. He nearly made the big league club last year, got his heart broken when he was sent to AAA, and did nothing but excel there. He had an OBP well over .400 again and displayed the same quality characteristics that the Cards loved about him in March. It speaks volumes about Carpenter that he didn't complain and give up in Memphis. He went out, worked hard and showed the club what he was capable of. And it's likely that will pay off with a major league bench job this year.
-- With the moves yesterday...it seems just about every spot on the roster is set. Except for one. Who on earth is going to be the backup catcher. Will it be Tony Cruz? Will it be Bryan Anderson. Everyday that these guys take the field it's a huge audition for them. With a lefty going today, Cruz gets a crack at it. The fact he's facing Johan Santana may seem daunting...but if he can put together some tough at-bats against him that could go a long way towards determining whether or not he makes the team.
-- The rest of the roster seems relatively set barring anything drastic happening over the last week. The 12 pitchers will be Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn, Jason Motte, Kyle McClellan, Fernando Salas, Scott Linebrink, Mitchell Boggs, Mark Rzepczynski and J.C. Romero. Twelve of the 13 position players are Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Rafael Furcal, Tyler Greene, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, (likely) Matt Carpenter and (likely) Erik Komatsu. It's still possible Shane Robinson could elbow his way past Komatsu....though that seems unlikely to me. And don't forget those numbers don't include Chris Carpenter and Skip Schumaker...2 guys who seem destined to begin the season on the DL. The last question, roster spot 25, will go to either Bryan Anderson or Tony Cruz. Stay tuned.
-- Going back to yesterday's moves briefly...I was a little surprised to see Eduardo Sanchez get optioned back to AAA. After it was explained by Mike Matheny it made a little bit more sense though. Sanchez has outstanding stuff. Maybe the best pure stuff on the staff (Jason Motte is the only one who could compare). But he has been a little wild and they are trying to get him to improve his command. So the hope is he goes back to Memphis and shortens his delivery which will eliminate some walks. If Sanchez is going to be a back-of-the-bullpen type of guy in the future he just cannot walk people as often as he has. It's great to have swing-and-miss stuff...but if you're putting runners on base you're asking for trouble. Eduardo Sanchez has a bright future, and he'll clearly be in St. Louis at some point this year as the first guy up when there's an issue, but he needs to work on a few mechanical things before he's truly ready.
--Brian Feldman, News 4 Sports