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Opening Day Roster Prediction #2: Wishful Thinking Out the Window…

Okay…I have to admit…my first roster prediction was littered with my own wishful thinking. I would really like to see Stavinoha rewarded for his professional approach at the plate and in camp. I would really like to see a lefty like Rich Hill in the rotation without sacrificing Jaime Garcia’s recovery year. And I would really like to see us be able to carry an extra bench player as a pinch hitter late in the game.

But the time for wishful thinking is over. It’s time to get serious. So…with “Tough Decisions Week” underway in Florida, I’ll echo the effort and make tough decisions here for my second Opening Day roster prediction of the Spring (HA! Spring…right…with 4-6 inches of snow outside).

Starting Lineup:

1.  Skip Schumaker 2B
2.  Brendan Ryan SS
3.  Albert Pujols  1B
4.  Matt Holliday LF
5.  Colby Rasmus CF (Against RH SP)
6.  Ryan Ludwick RF
7.  Yadier Molina C
8.  David Freese 3B
9.  Chris Carpenter P

Remaining Starting Pitchers:

1.  Adam Wainwright
2.  Kyle Lohse
3.  Brad Penny
4.  Kyle McClellan

Bullpen:

1.  Ryan Franklin RH-Closer
2.  Trever Miller LH
3.  Dennys Reyes LH
4.  Jason Motte RH
5.  Mitchell Boggs RH
6.  Blake Hawksworth RH
7.  Adam Ottavino RH

Bench:

1.  Felipe Lopez SH
2.  Jason LaRue RH-C
3.  Joe Mather RH
4.  Allen Craig RH
5.  Julio Lugo RH

Why No Jaime…?
I like Jaime…I really do. And I’m extremely excited about finally having a good lefty in the rotation again. I just don’t think right now is the right time for Jaime. The kid is still a kid. He’s one year removed from surgery. Let’s give him time to recover and get some regularity under him again before pulling him up and throwing him in the fire. Besides, there’s the issue of caring for the rest of our rotation.

Chris Carpenter – although no one wants to think about it – is still vulnerable. His nerve issue did not magically go away. It’s still a roll of the dice every time he throws. Sure, his season last year speaks to his reliability and durability, but let’s not push it. Wainwright is coming off a season in which he led the majors in innings. Brad Penny is in a comeback year, and Kyle Lohse is praying he doesn’t get targeted by line drives and errant pitches. If Jaime is in the rotation, that almost automatically means every lucky off day the rotation gets due to scheduling goes to Garcia (as we’ve heard thus far). Personally, I don’t like handicapping our rotation that way when we have other options.

I’ll tell you when I do like Jaime coming up in 2010, though…July. If he can be handled relatively softly in Memphis up until that point, and if a starter in St. Louis struggles or gets injured, I like Jaime for the rest of the season in that 5th starter role. But barring that…let him build strength in the AAA rotation with an eye on 2011.

Aren’t You a Nick Stavinoha Honk…?
Yes. I like the guy. But I’m not getting any impression the big league club feels they have a spot for him. He, unfortunately, is looking like the “first up” guy in Memphis. Always sad when a guy does everything he needs to do to earn a spot…and doesn’t. That’s the game, I guess.

Why Lugo…?
Because he got injured. I honestly don’t know if this hurts a club’s ability to trade a guy like Lugo, but it doesn’t help. His groin strain may actually have saved his Opening Day roster spot. I still think the at-bats Lopez will take from him will create a bitter drama with Lugo in the clubhouse, and I still feel there’s not much use for him now, but there’s not much for it at this point.

However, his fate is still uncertain. With no true left-handed bat on the bench, and with a subtle need for veteran right-handed relief, I still think the best use for a Major League minimum salary shortstop/utility guy like Lugo is as trade bait. Find a team in need and get what you can. It just may be early in the regular season rather than late in Spring when this actually gets done.

Adam Ottavino…?
My intrigue is well-documented here…but let’s get practical. He can spot start. He can pitch multiple innings in relief. And his motion and approach could even translate well into a back-up closer role ala Adam Wainwright ’06 if needed. He still needs to show a LOT in the next week – specifically an ability to bounce back on short rest and a consistency that has eluded him in seasons past – but he’s got undeniable momentum.

All in All…

The Cardinals are looking good. Pujols’ back concerns me as far as season-long nagging injuries go, and I was concerned about Freese at the plate until I saw his homer today…and let’s not forget our lefty-off the bench need…but all in all, the roster is looking good. Mather may be young as far as MLB experience goes, but he’s not quite raw. Craig is raw, but a relatively mature hitter all things considered.

The next week will be revealing. I can’t get enough of the 5th starter discussion…and guys like Craig need to keep it going…should be fun.

GO CARDS!!!

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