Cards to feature odd lineup in opener
Six outfielders to start Grapefruit League matchup vs. Marlins
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals will have six outfielders in their starting lineup for today's Grapefruit League opener against the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.
Three of them, of course, will play in the outfield: Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick, and Colby Rasmus. Another, as you might have guessed, will serve as the designated hitter. That's Chris Duncan. Then you've got the two in the infield, as Skip Schumaker (second base) and Joe Mather (third base) begin the advanced phase of their transition training.
Elsewhere in manager Tony La Russa's "opening day" lineup, right-hander Blake Hawksworth is the starting pitcher, Jason LaRue will catch, Albert Pujols will play first base and Khalil Greene is the shortstop. La Russa declined to divulge batting order positions, but at least a couple can be pretty easily guessed. Schumaker is likely to lead off, Pujols will almost certainly bat third -- and LaRue will not bat ninth.
One twist hinted at on Monday will come to fruition. Ankiel will play center field, with Ludwick in right and prospect Rasmus in left field. La Russa defended the choice to move Rasmus off of center, where he has drawn raves for his defensive ability.
"Is there anything wrong," he asked, "with the way Ankiel played center field last year? [Definitely not]. Let Rasmus play a little bit. They'll all play left, right. They'll play them all. ... If you have Opening Day, Ankiel gets center field and Colby gets a side, absolutely."
But the most scrutinized spots will be second and third, where the Cardinals hope to strike gold. Schumaker is attempting to make a full-on move from the outfield. Mather is hoping to serve as the third baseman while Troy Glaus recuperates from shoulder surgery.
"In the end, the key is going to be the confidence of the player and the confidence of the team, including the coaching staff," La Russa said. "That's really the key. But there are other distractions that are possible. ... The fans and media, they might scrutinize it and draw some conclusions that make it more difficult. So that's part of what we're asking these guys to do, is to tough it out."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.