The essence of spring training is, was and will always be about competition. That’s why these guys show up looking like a small army – typically around 60-70 players – preparing to conquer a foreign land. And don’t get me wrong, there will be competition in Jupiter, Florida this year.
It’s just competition without any real suspense.
This is the first time that I can remember where there’s really no openings for…anyone. Think about it. If everyone stays healthy (key word: if), if Yadier Molina is ready to go by the end of camp (a gigantic if) and if Jordan Walden somehow finds a way to be healthy and on the active roster (the biggest if of them all) you could literally write out the 25-man roster for the Redbirds right now.
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Mike Leake, Jaime Garcia
Relief pitchers: Trevor Rosenthal, Jonathan Broxton, Seth Maness, Jordan Walden, Seung-Hwan Oh, Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons
Starting position players: Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Matt Carpenter, Jhonny Peralta, Kolten Wong, Brandon Moss, Yadier Molina
Bench players: Tommy Pham, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Adams, Brayan Pena, Greg Garcia
Boom. There’s your roster. You can all go home and fall asleep until Opening Day.
Okay, we all know that’s not going to happen. The odds of Walden being active to face the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 3 are slim. Even projecting Molina to be there is probably a stretch. The team will likely err on the side of caution and be patient with their All-Star catcher.
But even so, barring something crazy, there’s really only “competition” for maybe one bullpen spot, plus possibly a veteran catcher to hold the fort for a few weeks. Even among starting jobs, all those gigs are pretty locked up except for first base.
Brandon Moss versus Matt Adams isn’t going to be the same thing as the battles for the fifth starter in the rotation that we’ve seen in recent years. Manager Mike Matheny hasn’t had a choice when it’s come to a starting pitcher. Someone has to win. Someone has to be out there pitching every fifth day while the other is either going to be in Triple-A or the big league bullpen.
First base isn’t like that. You can share a position in the field. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for Matheny to declare his starting first baseman at any point in spring training. Moss and Adams will both play. Moss probably a little bit more but, again, we’ll see how they look in Florida.
The lack of openings speaks to the organization and attention to detail the front office has. They know what they want and they know where they want to put it. Greg Garcia fills a need as a left-handed hitting utility infielder who can play all over. They don’t have too many of those running around in the minor leagues. Tommy Pham can play all three outfield positions and should be worthy of plenty of at-bats when guys like Matt Holliday and others need a rest. The bullpen features a current elite closer (Rosenthal), a former All-Star closer (Broxton) and a former league-leading closer in another country (Oh).
Knock on wood – a few times, in fact – that there won’t be any devastating March injuries that change the complexion of the team and we should see a rather boring camp with guys simply getting ready for the long grind of 162 games. You’ll hear a lot of the players say they’re still fighting for a job. Good, because that’s what they should say.
Let’s be honest though. Just about the entire roster is spoken for – and that’s a darn good thing for the Cardinals.