JUPITER, Fla. -- Calling it "unbelievable" and a "dream come true," Erik Komatsu received the news that he had refused to assume was coming, even as camp neared its end and he remained with the Cards. Having never played a day above Double-A, Komatsu will begin 2012 in the Majors.
Komatsu's chances of making the Opening Day roster improved when the decision was made to place Allen Craig on the disabled list. However, even before that news, the Rule 5 Draft pick positioned himself well by impressing in all facets of the game.
He has looked Major League-ready in the outfield and has handled himself well at the plate, hitting .280 with only five strikeouts. And arguably the strongest impression he made was with his legs. Komatsu has stolen a team-best six bases in seven tries this spring.
"It's a big part of my game, and I wanted to showcase that," Komatsu said. "With me being a guy who's on base a lot, my job is to get to second any way I can."
Key for Komatsu has been the absence of pain in his right foot, which gave him problems the entire 2011 season. Just a few days after being fitted for an orthotic insert in his shoe last month, Komatsu felt the lingering discomfort disappear.
He has not been bothered by any foot pain since, and that has given Komatsu the freedom to run much more often than he did in the Minors last season.
"I definitely was less aggressive on the bases last year," said Komatsu, who stole 21 bases in 124 Double-A games. "My first step was not great. I didn't really try to steal as much, just because I wasn't comfortable with that first step. A big part is the first step when you're going anywhere. Now, it's good and healthy, and I'm confident I can get off the block."
As a Rule 5 pick, Komatsu must remain on the Cardinals' 25-man roster for a full season or else be offered back to the Nationals for half of the $50,000 purchase price St. Louis paid to acquire him last December. Since 1998, the Cardinals have had only three Rule 5 picks stick through a season.
Matheny announces Opening Day roster
JUPITER, Fla. -- Though the team won't officially make its final roster moves until after Sunday's Grapefruit League finale, manager Mike Matheny made his Opening Day roster official on Friday.
Matheny informed Tony Cruz that he would be the last man standing in the backup-catcher competition that began as a three-man battle. Bryan Anderson will begin the year catching at Triple-A Memphis. Reliever Victor Marte will join him there, as Marte became the final pitcher cut from camp.
In addition to optioning Anderson and Marte to the Minors at the end of the weekend, the Cardinals will reassign utility player Eugenio Velez to Minor League camp. Shane Robinson, Rule 5 Draft pick Erik Komatsu and Matt Carpenter were all given the congratulatory news that they would be on a Major League Opening Day roster for the first time in their respective careers.
The Cardinals' roster will include the traditional split of 13 position players and 12 pitchers. Allen Craig, Chris Carpenter and Skip Schumaker will all begin the year on the disabled list. Barring any other injuries, the team's Opening Day roster will include the following players:
Starting pitchers (5): Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook
Relievers (7): Jason Motte (closer), Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, J.C. Romero, Kyle McClellan, Mitchell Boggs, Scott Linebrink
Catchers (2): Yadier Molina, Cruz
Infielders (6): Lance Berkman, Daniel Descalso, Tyler Greene, Rafael Furcal, David Freese, Matt Carpenter
Outfielders (5): Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Carlos Beltran, Komatsu, Robinson.
Lohse heads into Opening Day on a roll
JUPITER, Fla. -- Putting all of his spring focus points together for his final Grapefruit League start, Kyle Lohse heads into April feeling in regular-season form. About the only thing left to add are scouting reports, which aren't often utilized during Spring Training.
Pleased with his command and efficiency on Friday, Lohse will make his second career Opening Day start on the heels of a six-inning, 85-pitch performance in which he struck out seven and allowed only an unearned run to the Mets. His curveball -- the old one he recently reverted back to -- was especially sharp. But Lohse's changeup, slider and fastball were also all working effectively.
It was exactly what everyone had hoped to see.
"That was nice," manager Mike Matheny said. "There is no sense in holding it back."
"You want to come out of your last [Spring Training game] feeling pretty good," added Lohse. "I felt like I could have gone back out. I felt like everything was doing what it needed to be doing. It was a good last start."
Lohse's next start will come on Wednesday in the Marlins' new Miami ballpark.
"I'm very anxious, in a good sense," Lohse said. "I'm ready to get the season going. I feel like we've been down here long enough, and I'm ready to play some games that count."
The only scare during Lohse's time on the mound came in the third inning, when he was struck on his pitching hand by a comebacker. Lohse confirmed afterward that the contact didn't jam any of his fingers, but was just a sting that quickly went away.
Decision on backup backstop was toughest
JUPITER, Fla. -- There was no difficulty discerning from manager Mike Matheny's face on Friday that the decision affecting the second catcher's spot was the toughest of the final three roster choices he was forced to make.
The decision to keep Tony Cruz over Bryan Anderson wasn't made until this week, Matheny said, and it had nothing to do with any deficiency in Anderson's game. In a meeting Matheny had with Anderson on Friday, he told the 25-year-old backstop to go to Triple-A Memphis knowing that he would be the first player summoned should the Cardinals need another catcher at the big league level.
"I have zero problem with him being our backup, right now," Matheny said of Anderson. "It just comes down to tough decisions. To me, he's a completely different player. [He] came in and won over a lot of people with how he went about it this spring. That is the ultimate compliment for a catcher when a pitching staff and a coaching staff and your teammates see how hard you've worked to improve on things ... to be ready. He's ready now."
The common criticism of Anderson in the past was that he was not an adept handler of the pitching staff. Not only did he meet Matheny's challenge of discarding that stigma, but Anderson also had a terrific spring offensively. With another hit on Friday, Anderson pushed his average to .478. He currently leads the club in Grapefruit League on-base percentage.
Anderson impressed so much at the plate that Matheny noted he would be considered for a callup should the Cardinals have a need for a bat off the bench. There are no plans to get Anderson work at other positions in the Minors in order to make versatility a part of his appeal.
Cruz has also been solid offensively all spring. He came in as the slight favorite to win the backup catcher's job, and solidified it with his work behind the plate and nine hits in 27 at-bats. Cruz served as Yadier Molina's backup for much of the 2011 season.
"He's a guy who had already earned the confidence of the staff," Matheny said. "He brings to the table, more than anything, the ability for us to give Yadi the days that he needs."
Salas still has Matheny's confidence
JUPITER, Fla. -- Fernando Salas' up-and-down spring hit its lowest point on Friday, though manager Mike Matheny expressed no concern about Salas' readiness to serve as the team's setup man once the season begins.
Salas faced four Mets hitters and retired none of them before being pulled from the appearance. "He just looked a little off right from the first pitch," Matheny noted afterward.
Asked if Salas' spring inconsistencies could be partially due to some interruptions in his schedule this month, Matheny said he didn't see that as an issue. Salas left the club for a few days in mid-March to travel to Mexico for the birth of his son. That forced him to go a week in between appearances. He also spent part of this week fighting an illness.
"I think of all the guys down there, he's one of the most mentally tough pitchers on this staff," Matheny said. "I just think it's one of those days. He's been fine for me. He's going to be all right."
Salas entered Friday having made three straight scoreless appearances. That followed two consecutive appearances in which he was scored upon.
Farm director John Vuch said the organization does not intend to use a single closer at Triple-A Memphis. Marte, who saved 31 games for Memphis last year, is sure to get some more opportunities. He will be the final pitcher optioned from Major League camp this weekend. Eduardo Sanchez and Maikel Cleto are also expected to get some save opportunities.
Velez will play both infield and outfield at Triple-A in order to maintain his versatility. Velez is expected to get regular playing time, just in various positions.
Though it has been assumed for some time now that Matt Carpenter would begin the year in the Majors, he did finally get the official word. Carpenter credits his personal decision this winter to add the outfield and first base to his defensive work as the reason why he was able to crack the Opening Day roster for the first time.
"When you look at the makeup of our club, you kind of realize that if you're not a guy who can move around the field, you're kind of limiting yourself to make it into the lineup or be on the club at all," said Carpenter, who has played both corner infield and outfield spots this spring. "I definitely think that coming in and showing that I can play more than just third base is one of the main reasons why I've gotten this opportunity."
Schumaker (right oblique strain) has resumed some physical activity. He participated in the stretch and conditioning program with everyone else prior to Friday's game.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.