New manager Mike Matheny has been
playing with potential lineups for much of his first month on the job. But he
really began ruminating after the Cardinals signed outfielder Carlos Beltran to
a two-year, $26 million deal.
Would Beltran hit second,
behind shortstop Rafael Furcal and ahead of outfielder Matt Holliday and first
baseman Lance Berkman?
Or would the switch
hitter hit third behind Furcal and center fielder Jon Jay? Perhaps fourth? Or
even fifth behind Holliday and Berkman?
More likely, Beltran will
end up as a No. 2 or 3 hitter although Matheny said, "With Carlos, that term
'flexibility' keeps getting used. So I'll ride with that."
The addition of Beltran
helps to compensate, at least a bit, for the loss of first baseman Albert Pujols
to free agency. With the New York Mets and San Francisco last year, Beltran had a .525
slugging percentage and was over .900 in the OPS category. The Cardinals'
offense last season led the National League in on-base percentage at .341 and
OPS at .766.
"It's all on paper now
and it looks good on paper," said Holliday. "But we do have to prove it. We have
to prove it does more than look good."
RHP Adam Wainwright, who
missed the entire 2011 season after suffering an elbow-ligament injury that
required Tommy John surgery, is more than a month into his offseason throwing
program and already is gearing up to head to Jupiter, Fla., site of Cardinals
spring training. So far, so good. "I really think it's good to not think about
anything less than normal expectations," said Wainwright. "And my normal
expectations are to be the best there is."
OF Carlos Beltran turned
down several American League teams—Boston,
Cleveland and Toronto—to remain in the DH-less National
League. "I feel I can still make a different in the field," Beltran said. "If
you're having a tough day offensively, you can go out and play good defense and
still change the game."
Former manager Tony La
Russa will return to St.
Louis in mid-January for a couple of stage shows
benefiting his California-based Animal Rescue Foundation and to be honored at
the St. Louis Baseball Writers' dinner on Jan. 15. La Russa is weighing several
jobs in baseball, but none of them on the field.
One of the developments
to be monitored in spring training is how the club intends to use RHP Lance Lynn, a starter for his minor league career who excelled in the bullpen in the
is one of many right-handed candidates in a bullpen led by the new closer, RHP
The Cardinals still would
seem to be in the market for one more backup infielder after not tendering INF
Ryan Theriot and seeing INF Nick Punto, who started frequently at second base in
the postseason, moving to Boston.
BY THE NUMBERS: 142 -
Games played by OF Carlos Beltran last season, one year after having serious
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm
looking for an opportunity to win a championship. That's I want in my
- Carlos Beltran, who
never has played in a World Series.
The Cardinals are coming off a
World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big
turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club
changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. Now that first baseman
Albert Pujols is gone, the Cardinals are entering a new era, and they replaced
some of Pujols' offense by signing OF Carlos Beltran.
OF Carlos Beltran (free agent from
Giants), LHP J.C. Romero (free agent from Rockies).
1B Albert Pujols (free agent,
signed with Angels), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent, signed with Tigers), C
Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers), INF Nick Punto (free agent,
signed with Red Sox).
RHPs Edwin Jackson, OF
Corey Patterson, LHP Arthur Rhodes, INF Ryan Theriot.
RHP Kyle McClellan, RP
OF Allen Craig (knee
surgery) is out until May.
RHP Adam Wainwright is
expected to go to Jupiter, Fla., just after Jan. 1 to begin throwing in
earnest. He expects to be ready for spring training.