Barden on the outside looking in
Infield prospect playing to fill a slot on the squad
JUPITER, Fla. -- Nine days remain before the Cardinals' season opener on April 6, and Brian Barden's immediate baseball future remains in limbo.
"I have my car that has to be shipped out, but I don't know where to ship it," Barden said before the Cardinals' game against the Orioles at Roger Dean Stadium on Saturday. "It's just one of those things where you just have to go with the flow."
One option would be for Barden to ship his ride back to Memphis, home of the Cardinals' Triple-A affiliate and the place he played 103 games last season. The other would be to have it routed to St. Louis, meaning he'd start the season on the 25-man roster.
For now, the 27-year-old infielder will simply take things as they come.
"You deal with it," said Barden, who was batting ninth and playing shortstop on Saturday. "I think a lot more stress was in the beginning of camp, when I wasn't getting a lot of playing time, and I was wondering what my situation was.
"It got to a point when it was like, you know what? It is what it is. I'm here for a reason. And they must like me if I'm hanging around."
The question now is: For how much longer?
With third baseman Troy Glaus out of action all spring after undergoing right shoulder surgery in January -- and being placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Friday -- a spot is open for an extra reserve.
For now, it looks like that's all Barden can hope for.
With one week left of Spring Training, manager Tony La Russa has seemed to lean towards either Joe Mather or David Freese as his temporary fill-in at the hot corner.
Stats-wise, however, Barden has been the most efficient.
Going into Saturday, Barden is batting .344 through 21 games, while Freese -- who injured his left Achilles' tendon in a car crash in January -- is hitting .308 in just nine games. Mather holds a .183 average in 22 contests.
So far, Barden believes he's been an overlooked candidate. But he understands why.
"They want somebody who really fits that third baseman profile -- hits home runs and can do some damage on the offensive side," said Barden, who's never hit a home run in 44 Major League at-bats and has 66 home runs in 783 Minor League games. "I'm a good hitter, but I'm not going to go out there and hit a bunch of home runs. My main thing is I'm going to play defense and get base hits."
As of now, considering Freese is the regular third baseman to start the season, it seems as though Barden, Mather, Joe Thurston, Colby Rasmus and Brendan Ryan are competing for four reserve spots.
So far, La Russa -- who has yet to tip his hand -- has liked what he's seen out of Barden.
"I think he's one of our better defenders in the infield -- three positions, which is important," La Russa said. "And he's really worked on some of the stuff that we've stressed during camp at the plate, and he's had a good-hitting spring."
Barden, a sixth-round pick by the Diamondbacks in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft, spent his first five seasons solely in the Minor Leagues and finally made his Major League debut for Arizona to start the 2007 season. After playing in just eight games for the D-Backs, he was claimed off waivers from St. Louis in August. In '08, he played in nine games -- batting .222 -- as a September callup for the Cardinals.
While Barden admits he was frustrated with his lack of at-bats early in the spring, he vowed to make the most of his opportunities.
Now, he'll just have to wait to see what his future holds.
"I would like to stay in St. Louis," said Barden. "I don't know, but I have a good feeling. It's hard to say, because if Freese makes the team, it kind of shuffles things around, so it's hard to think what their mix of guys that they want to start the season is.
"Nobody has really said anything, so it's kind of hard to put your finger on it. But I'd like to say yes, I'll be on the team."
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.