St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training Preview
JUPITER, FLA - The St. Louis Cardinals will officially commence 2014 Spring Training operations when pitchers and catchers report Wednesday. The team's first official workout will come the following day. Position players are not required to report until February 17.
The defending National League Champions will enter Spring Training with a team that saw few changes during the off season.
The biggest changes in Cardinals camp this year will be the absence of right fielder Carlos Beltran, and 2011 World Series MVP, third baseman David Freese. Beltran, a free agent this previous off season, signed a three-year deal with the New York Yankees. A St. Louis native, Freese was traded along with pitcher Fernando Salas to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for outfielders Peter Bourjos and Randall Grichuk.
There are a few things to watch for this spring as the Cardinals look to make a return trip to the fall classic.
With the departure of Freese, Matt Carpenter can shift from second base to his natural third base position. The Freese trade also presumably opens up a spot at second base for prospect Kolten Wong who saw limited Major League action last season.
Another interesting story to watch will be the play of top prospect, outfielder Oscar Taveras. Taveras enters the season ranked as the third overall prospect in baseball by mlb.com. The general thought around baseball is that Taveras will open the 2014 season in the Minor Leagues. 2013 All-Star first baseman Allen Craig would then man right field, and Matt Adams would take over full-time first base duties. However, if Taveras proves he's ready to play in the majors it could move Craig back to first base and send Adams to the bench.
A few spots in the 2014 starting rotation could also be up for grabs. The staff will be lead by 2013 National League Cy-Young Award runner-up Adam Wainwright, who won 19 games last year and finished with an ERA under three. National League Championship Series MVP Michael Wacha and right-hander Shelby Miller are also considered locks for the rotation. The last two spots are likely to go to a combination of RHP Lance Lynn, RHP Joe Kelly, RHP Carlos Martinez, and LHP Jaime Garcia. Lynn and Kelly finished last season as members of the rotation, and Martinez found his niche as a shut-down reliever out of the bullpen. Garcia, who missed nearly all of last season with a torn shoulder labrum, is looking to reclaim his spot as a starter.
The Cardinals will begin regular season play on April second against their Central Division rivals, the Cincinnati Reds.