Mozeliak lays out roster possibilities
Cards GM sees third base as key to team makeup; Ring clears waivers
JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak offered some insight into his club's roster-refining process on Thursday, speaking with reporters prior to St. Louis' game against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium.
Mozeliak said that a number of possibilities are still within reach for the Cardinals, including two different ways to use the last spot on the 25-man roster. The GM said that St. Louis could carry a conventional combination of six infielders and five outfielders, but it could also take seven infielders and only four outfielders north when Spring Training comes to a close at the end of next week.
"What ends up shaking out at third base could affect how you look at the overall roster," Mozeliak said. "But we are fortunate because some of our utility-type players are just that. They can do more than play just one position, and they give [manager] Tony [La Russa] a lot of flexibility."
While most of the Cardinals' roster is set, the club appears to have a large derby under way for most of the potential bench spots. If David Freese takes control of the competition for the third-base job in Troy Glaus' absence, that leaves five players for four bench spots. The questions come in evaluating those players' potential contributions, as well as in determining the best breakdown of positions.
Colby Rasmus, Joe Mather, Brian Barden, Brendan Ryan and Joe Thurston are all in competition for four spots. Rasmus is an outfielder, while Barden, Ryan and Thurston are all infielders. Mather played outfield in the Majors last year, but he began the spring at third base before slumping offensively and seeing his time at that position diminish.
Even then, it's not quite so simple, though. Ryan and Thurston have each played the outfield this spring, something they would likely have to do at times in the season if the Cardinals take seven infielders to St. Louis.
If the Cardinals do go with only four outfielders, there would still be the question of who is the fourth. Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan are set, leaving Rasmus and Mather. While Mather's right-handedness helps him, Mozeliak noted that Rasmus brings some particular skills that set him apart.
"When you look at what he can possibly do for us as far as speed, defense -- that will be uniquely valued in this process," he said.
Should Rasmus make the team, he would be the fourth outfielder, which is not necessarily the best scenario for the development of a 22-year-old player. But Mozeliak emphasized that Rasmus wouldn't just rot on the bench in that case.
"I think the way Tony is going to look at that is probably go with the hot hand, also what the matchups might look like, and also how to maximize our defense," Mozeliak said. "When you sit here today, there's a chance he might not be in the Opening Day lineup, but that doesn't mean he'd be getting at-bats like a fourth or a fifth."
Mozeliak also acknowledged on Thursday that the Cardinals placed left-handed reliever Royce Ring on outright waivers, and that Ring cleared waivers. That leaves the veteran hurler with two options: He can accept an assignment to Triple-A Memphis, or he can choose to become a free agent.
Mozeliak said he expects Ring to accept the assignment, which would provide the Cardinals potentially valuable depth if something should go wrong with either of their two Major League lefty relievers, Dennys Reyes or Trever Miller.
Ring was brought in to be part of a multiway competition for the second left-hander spot, alongside Miller. When none of those pitchers -- a list that also included Charlie Manning and Ian Ostlund -- seized the opportunity, St. Louis signed Reyes. Ring appeared to be the favorite before camp started, and though he didn't pitch all that badly, neither did he shine in limited chances.
"I wouldn't say [his performance was a] disappointment," Mozeliak said. "I would say we had some higher expectations."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.