Mets Cardinals Spring Baseball

St. Louis Cardinals' John Nogowski rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the second inning of a spring training baseball game against the New York Mets Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

( — With a final round of camp cuts Sunday, the Cardinals have finalized their Opening Day roster ahead of the start of the regular season on April 1 in Cincinnati. Among the decisions on the season-opening 26-man roster were a few surprises for St. Louis.

The Cardinals announced Sunday they have optioned relief pitcher Kodi Whitley and outfielder Lane Thomas off the big-league roster. St. Louis also re-assigned catchers Tyler Heineman and Dennis Ortega and infielders Max Moroff and Josė Rondón.

The series of roster moves Sunday leaves position players John Nogowski, Edmundo Sosa, Austin Dean, Justin Williams along with pitcher Jake Woodford for the final spots on the Cardinals active roster.

After a strong start to the spring, Thomas cooled off offensively while struggling defensively toward the close of camp. Though the 25-year-old outfielder was expected to draw more opportunities with the club following the trade of Dexter Fowler to Los Angeles, Thomas has hit just .216 with a meager .520 OPS in 37 Grapefruit League at-bats.

Not even a forearm injury for center fielder Harrison Bader—who will open the year on the injured list alongside pitchers Dakota Hudson (right elbow), Kwang Hyun Kim (back) and Miles Mikolas (right shoulder)—was enough to secure Thomas' place on the roster after a trying spring camp.

As Thomas faltered, Austin Dean and John Nogowski made their impressions count. Neither player is known for his defense at first base or in the corner outfield, but both found success at the plate this spring, leading to their inclusion among the Cardinals season-opening bench options. Dean hit .306 with a home run and 7 RBIs in Grapefruit League play, while Nogowski forced the Cardinals to consider him for a bench job with a pair of homers, 12 RBIs and a robust .355/.500/.548 batting line this spring.

With Dylan Carlson shifting to center field in the absence of Bader, it's possible that Dean and Nogowski are considered for playing time in right field in the early days of the season. It's more likely, though, that Justin Williams will be given every chance to run away with the starting job. Williams, who arrived to St. Louis via the Tommy Pham trade in 2018, didn't have a strong spring statistically (.650 OPS), but impressed the Cardinals staff with his ability to make loud, damaging contact with the baseball.

With Mike Shildt announcing Sunday that Matt Carpenter would open the season off the Cardinals bench, cementing Tommy Edman at second base rather than making an impromptu shift to the outfield—Williams may be in line for an Opening Day start for the Cardinals.

The last name on the Cardinals bench, infielder Edmundo Sosa, didn't make much noise at the dish this spring, but is considered a premiere defender at multiple infield positions. Out of options this year, the Cardinals elected to include Sosa on the roster rather than risk him being claimed on waivers.

Jake Woodford spent last season in a long-relief role for the Cardinals, and did enough this spring to secure his spot in the St. Louis bullpen ahead of Whitley. A former closer in the minors, Whitley will likely be called upon from the alternate site if the Cardinals find an early-season need in their bullpen.

The Cardinals announced earlier this week that the starting rotation to open the season would be Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, Carlos Martinez, Daniel Ponce de Leon and John Gant.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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