A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE CARDINALS
I don't think you can ever take them out of the playoff equation, not with that pitching staff and Tony La Russa. And they have more offense off the bench than people give them credit for. . . . There's nothing not to like about Chris Carpenter. He throws 92--93 mph when he has to, has command, plate movement, a quick breaking ball and a cutter that is really good. He cuts that in on lefthanders, and they can't keep it off their fists. . . . I have no idea what's going on with Jaime Garcia, though. Last spring and during the season he had a fastball that jumped and an electric slurve, but we're not seeing that breaking ball this spring. It's just not biting. . . . Adam Wainwright's replacement, Kyle McClellan, has a very good curveball. It's an out pitch. . . . Albert Pujols doesn't look quite as focused as usual. That guy never gives at bats away, but this spring he was making outs against guys he shouldn't make outs against. You still have to change your plan of attack every at bat against him. Don't always throw breaking balls away, you can put them inside and surprise him. . . . You have to throw inside to Matt Holliday because he can take you out to right and right center. If you stay away, you better do a helluva job changing speeds. . . . Colby Rasmus is way too good a player to trade: He has excellent bat speed, and he's still young. He fits well in the two hole, but they could use a speed guy leading off. . . . I don't see them being happy with Ryan Theriot defensively. He looks a little heavy, with slow feet. He's not the guy he used to be, and he was never a sensational shortstop. . . . Defensively they're not going to be elite. David Freese is O.K. at third, but Lance Berkman in right will be similar to Holliday in left: He'll take decent routes but has bad foot speed.
WITH 2010 STATISTICS
MANAGER TONY LA RUSSA
16TH SEASON WITH CARDINALS
Saves blown by the Cardinals' bullpen in 2010, the fewest in the NL since '04. Closer Ryan Franklin converted 27 of his 29 chances for a 93.1% success rate. That ranked second only to the Padres' Heath Bell, who cashed in on 47 of his 50 opportunities (94%).
Signing Lance Berkman would have been a great move for any number of teams able to play the veteran on-base machine at first base or DH. But Berkman, 35, hasn't played the outfield since 2007. The Cardinals' plan to play Berkman in rightfield was always optimistic, and his spring training—nagging injuries largely confined him to DH and pinch hitting—illustrated the problems with that plan. It's not clear that playing Berkman, who will be a poor outfielder at best, is a better idea than letting Allen Craig have the job. Originally a corner infielder, Craig, 26, has played the outfield corners in Triple A and for St. Louis the past two seasons. While he's also a shaky defender, Craig has health, youth and more recent experience playing rightfield than Berkman. He also has a bat: .321/.380/.548 in two Triple A seasons. Craig did not thrive in a bench role last year, but in 27 starts he batted .269/.317/.473, and he closed the year hitting .382/.400/.647 in September and October. If he can come close to matching Berkman's production, his ability to play right while staying healthy should give him the edge to start.
RONALD C. MODRA/SPORTS IMAGERY/GETTY IMAGES (HOLLIDAY)
SCOTT ROVAK/US PRESSWIRE (CRAIG)