3/29/2013 5:45 P.M. ET
Matheny likes the way Cards' bench shapes up
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Though the Cardinals' depth has been tested by several injuries this spring, they will open the season with a bench that features some experience, decent defensive versatility and one pretty intriguing bat.
The latter descriptor, of course, goes to Matt Adams, who will be on his first Opening Day roster. He finished spring with a team-high 17 RBIs, a total that ranked third best in the National League heading into Friday's slate of games. Adams hit .288 with five doubles and three home runs. He will provide depth at first base, as well as a left-handed bat off the bench.
Shane Robinson entered spring competing with outfielders Adron Chambers and Justin Christian for a bench spot and never gave his competition a chance. Robinson finished Grapefruit League play with a .438 average. Through Thursday, he led the league in doubles with nine and ranked second in on-base percentage (.500) and slugging percentage (.742).
"What Shane did made it very easy," manager Mike Matheny said. "What Matt Adams did this spring, to me, made it very easy. [The bench] really came together pretty well."
Ty Wigginton will give Matheny a veteran pinch-hit option that he didn't often have late last year. Tony Cruz will return as Yadier Molina's backup. And Ryan Jackson will open the season as the team's backup middle infielder. His stay will end when David Freese returns from the disabled list. At that point, Matt Carpenter or Daniel Descalso will oftentimes finish filling out the five-man bench.
Cleto, Chambers optioned as Cards set roster
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- There were two buses leaving Tradition Field after the Cardinals' 7-2 loss to the Mets on Friday. One was taking the members of the Opening Day roster to the airport to board a flight for Arizona, where the team starts its season on Monday. The other carried players who aren't leaving town just yet.
Though manager Mike Matheny had told players of the team's roster intentions earlier this week, the team finalized those moves after its last spring game. In order to get the roster from 31 down to 25, the Cardinals optioned right-hander Maikel Cleto and outfielder Adron Chambers to Triple-A Memphis. Non-roster invitees Oscar Taveras, Rob Johnson and Greg Garcia were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Jason Motte, as expected, was placed on the disabled list, where he will join David Freese (lower back inflammation), Chris Carpenter (thoracic outlet syndrome) and Rafael Furcal (elbow surgery).
That leaves the Cardinals' Opening Day roster as follows:
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook, Shelby Miller.
Relief pitchers: Mitchell Boggs, Randy Choate, Joe Kelly, Edward Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal, Marc Rzepczynski, Fernando Salas.
Catchers: Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz.
Infielders: Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Ryan Jackson, Pete Kozma, Ty Wigginton.
Outfielders: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Shane Robinson.
As for those who were sent to Minor League camp on Friday, Cleto will fit into Memphis' bullpen, while Chambers will get everyday playing time across the outfield. Taveras will play all three outfield positions, as well, though Matheny has requested that the 20-year-old top prospect get a large volume of focused work in left field.
"Left field, he wasn't too good with the angles, the balls off the bat," Matheny said. "I encouraged him in batting practice, too, to make sure he gets over into left field and spends as much time working there as well as where he's most comfortable, in right. He needs work all the way around, but I think some additional work in left field is going to be beneficial to him."
Garcia has climbed through the Cardinals' system as a middle infielder, though the Cards would like to also see him get work at third base. The organization continues to groom many of its Minor League infielders to be versatile in case a need arises at the Major League level at any number of positions.
Johnson joins J.R. Towles, who was sent out of camp earlier this month, as Memphis' catching tandem. The Cardinals are pleased to have a pair of catchers with previous Major League experience in Triple-A, given the presence of some top pitching talent in that Triple-A rotation.
"I think it's that big of a deal," Matheny said. "You have two guys that have a real great work ethic, the understanding of a game plan, the understanding of what it takes in the big leagues. Those things are valuable in their development."
Cards confident with rotation heading into season
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After logging six innings in each of his previous two starts, Jake Westbrook closed out his Grapefruit League work with a four-inning performance on Friday.
Westbrook threw 70 pitches (40 strikes) in the game. He walked four and allowed five hits and four fourth-inning runs. In his first five starts this spring, Westbrook combined to allow only eight earned runs in 20 innings.
"It was somewhat of a weird game because I felt like I pitched pretty well, other than a couple of missed spots that they really took advantage of," said Westbrook, whose first regular-season start will come next Friday in San Francisco. "It wasn't my best day. But I feel good about where I am."
The Cardinals feel good about where their rotation is collectively, too. Before Westbrook's so-so start, the Cardinals' other starters ended their spring work with impressive results. That included an eight-inning performance from Jaime Garcia, six shutout innings from Lance Lynn and a six-inning, two-run start by Adam Wainwright.
Those four pitchers, along with fifth starter Shelby Miller, combined for a 3.78 spring ERA. Garcia's was the lowest (2.48), and he logged more innings than anyone else on the club with 29.
Matheny open to experimenting with lineup
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Manager Mike Matheny has experimented with all sorts of batting orders this spring, and he said on Friday that may not change once the regular season opens.
It's an idea, Matheny said, that he hopes may be able to eliminate some of the streakiness that characterized the Cardinals' offense in 2012. While he'd ideally prefer to settle on a static lineup, if the group isn't collectively hitting, Matheny intends to mix things up.
"I believe we've covered everything work-wise," Matheny said, in speaking of the organization's attempt to pinpoint a factor behind the offense's ups and downs. "We've covered everything with the preparation and our scouting, all our advanced stuff. So what else can we do? How do you shorten those periods?
"Part of that is maybe putting different people who, at that particular time, may be able to help you more in different spots. These are some of the conversations that I've had with different guys. Not that it's pure panic, but where could you better fit right now? It might be a place you've been in before. It might be a spot that's a little bit different."
No one, Matheny added, will be immune from being moved, either. That includes Matt Holliday, who hit third in every one of his 154 starts in 2012.
One of the more fluid cases could be with Carlos Beltran, who hit fifth on Friday after batting second for most of Spring Training. Beltran started games at five different spots in the batting order last year. Most of those came from the cleanup spot (82 starts) and No. 2 hole (40 starts).
"I think we'll be better at that this year," Holliday said. "I don't think we'll be as inconsistent this year. I think that was just an anomaly. I think we have too many good hitters who know how to get on base even when they're not swinging the bats great."
• The Cardinals announced on Friday that Busch Stadium will host an exhibition soccer match on May 23 between Manchester City and Chelsea, both of the English Premier League. Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. CT, and it will mark the first non-baseball, professional sporting event ever hosted at the stadium.
Tickets, priced $30 and up, will go on sale at 10 a.m. CT on Tuesday. They can be purchased at the Busch Stadium Box Office and at cardinals.com/Soccer. Cardinals season-ticket holders can purchase tickets during a pre-sale on Monday.
• David Freese (lower back inflammation) accompanied the team to Port St. Lucie on Friday but will not travel to Phoenix for the opening series. Freese will remain in Florida so that he can get at-bats in extended Spring Training games next week. Because the Cardinals could backdate Freese's disabled-list assignment, the third baseman can be activated as early as April 7.
• Lefty Randy Choate allowed a single to Lucas Duda, the only Mets batter he faced on Friday, thereby extending his string of appearances without retiring a hitter to five. He was, though, not helped defensively by left fielder Adron Chambers, who couldn't come up with a catch that Matheny said Chambers would make "99 times out of 100."
The last out Choate recorded came on March 11.
• Joe Kelly pitched 1 2/3 innings on Friday in his first relief appearance since falling out of the competition for the fifth-rotation spot. Kelly allowed a hit and a walk, while striking out one. Matheny intends to keep Kelly's role in the bullpen flexible.
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.