With the Cardinals' bench figuring to be inexperienced, infielder Tyler Greene becomes a pivotal player.
In two partial seasons with the
Cardinals, Greene has been beset by inconsistency and injury and has had to be
sent back to Class AAA both years. But with the trade of shortstop Brendan Ryan
Depending on the recovery of third baseman David Freese from two ankle surgeries, Greene, who hit .221 last season, also might see considerable time as a third base backup and he could be a right-handed alternative to left-handed batting Skip Schumaker at second base.
With the importance of the 2011 season for Greene, he asked team officials if he could play winter ball and had brief stints this offseason in both the Dominican and Venezuelan winter leagues.
Greene, a first-round pick in the
2005 draft, went 7 for his last 48 for the Cardinals in 2010 after raising his
average to .286 at one point. A hand injury caused him to be placed on the
disabled list on Aug. 1, and he later was optioned back to
On the plus side, Greene has power and speed. On three occasions, he has hit 15 or more homers in the minors, and he has stolen as many as 31 bases in a minor league season. He is 5-for-5 in big-league stolen-base attempts.
On the down side, the Georgia Tech product has been prone to mistakes in the field. He has a strong arm but is occasionally inaccurate. He also has seemed to have trouble relaxing when he plays.
Counting Greene, the potential Cardinals bench will have only one player who has spent an entire season in the majors. Backup catcher Gerald Laird has done that, but Greene, outfielders Jon Jay and Allen Craig and infielder Daniel Descalso all have not.
--1B Albert Pujols' future contract extension occupies the thoughts of many Cardinals fans, and though nobody was commenting publicly about the matter, there were reports that progress was being made. Pujols has said he does not want to negotiate a future contract during spring training.
--The Cardinals promoted Michael Girsch to assistant general manager, replacing John Abbamondi, who recently joined the San Diego Padres' front office. Girsch, 34, has been a member of the organization since 2006, most recently as director of baseball development.
--With the revised schedule and the season opening on Thursday, March 31,
the Cardinals won't play on the first Friday this year, when they are scheduled off. Friday was the Cardinals' best day last year -- they were 20-6 on that day.
--The Cardinals finished the 2010 season five games behind the Cincinnati Reds, and they can owe that to their poor record against their National League Central Division brethren. They were 39-39 against divisional foes and were only 19-20 against the Central at home. The Cardinals were 33-9 against non-Central Division teams at home.
--If the Cardinals could have
played contenders all year long, they might have been champions. Against the
four National League playoff entrants, they were 25-15. They were 12-6 against
--RHP Eduardo Sanchez, who had a total of 14 saves and made 60 relief appearances while at Class AA Springfield and Class AAA Memphis last year, had a 10.13 ERA in 14 games for Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League. Sanchez, considered one of the top relief prospects in the organization, walked 12 in 10 2/3 innings in winter ball.
BY THE NUMBERS: 70 -- Winning seasons the Cardinals have had in their history. They've been around since 1882.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "My foot was a brick." -- 3B David Freese on his left ankle, which was the more damaged of the two on which he had surgery last year.
The Cardinals entered the offseason with one of the best core groups in baseball: 1B Albert Pujols, LF Matt Holliday, RHPs Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter and Gold Glove C Yadier Molina. They have tried to upgrade the supporting cast, particularly by signing outfielder Lance Berkman.
ARRIVALS: C Gerald Laird (free agent from Tigers), RF Lance Berkman (free agent from Yankees), LHP Brian Tallet (free agent from Blue Jays), SS Ryan Theriot (trade with Dodgers).
It is probable that none of them will be brought back.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Kyle McClellan.
McClellan is one of the best middle relievers in the game but doesn't have much in the way of stats covering saves and wins.
--3B David Freese (right ankle surgery in August 2010, left ankle surgery in September 2010) should be ready for spring training.
--LHP Jaime Garcia (left arm fatigue), RHP Adam Wainwright (right forearm strain) and C Yadier Molina (right knee inflammation) all were shut down at the end of the season. All are expected to be ready for spring training.