Today the St. Louis Cardinals completed their fourth spring training exhibition game with a 15-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox. It is still very early, of course, but here extraordinarily early observations based the team’s first 36 innings of Grapefruit League action.
#1 – The team is old and injury prone
After losing Chris Carpenter before spring training games even started the team is also dealing with other injuries in the first week of spring training. First baseman Allen Craig was sat out yesterday with a sore shoulder. Rafael Furcal has yet to field a ball in play as he still deals with a torn ligament and bone spur in his elbow, though Furcal did say he is now feeling better and hopes to play in the field this weekend. Even two youngsters, Matt Adams and Shelby Miller, have been held back some by knee and shoulder issues respectively.
Once again it is early, but one can hardly expect the trend to improve much over a 162 game season. Cardinals fans can expect their star players to be sit frequently to deal with nagging injuries or simply to get some rest. If past season trends hold true, a few significant players will go on the 15-day DL at least once. The depth of the team will be sorely (pun intended) tested this year.
#2 – The team can still hit
Granted the team is facing minor league pitchers for half the game, but even with a partially made up of minor league hitter the Cardinals have scored 31 runs over the first four spring training games.
As was the case last year, power is the source of much of the production. Yesterday’s 10-2 victory over the Astros was produced, in part, from homeruns by Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, and Pete Kozma. Today’s 15-4 victory was highlighted by a monstrous homerun off the bat of Matt Adams.
Meanwhile, the team has a total of three stolen bases over the first four games from Kolten Wong, Jon Jay, and Adron Chambers.
Manager Mike Matheny said he would emphasize opportunistic base running, which may prove the case as the season develops. However, right now the offense is still mostly based on “stack em and pack em” model.
#3 – So far, so good with starting pitchers not named Chris Carpenter
Spring training began on a very bad note when the club announced that Chris Carpenter would likely be sidelined for all of 2013 due to a recurring nerve issue in his shoulder and neck. Carpenter’s loss was undoubtedly a setback for the club.
With Carpenter as the notable exception to the rule, the other starters have fared well thus far. Today Jaime Garcia threw two shutout innings with no signs of trouble with his shoulder. Yesterday Adam Wainwright through 2.2 shutout innings while striking out two.
John Gast and Trevor Rosenthal struggled in their starts, but Gast is expected to start in the minor leagues this season and Rosenthal is one of many options for the fifth starter spot. Did I say it was early? Well it is, but having said the starting pitchers have performed about as well as can be expected so far.