ST. LOUIS – Calling second base his spot to lose may be a little much at this point, but it appears Cardinals infielder Tyler Greene will get every opportunity to win a starting spot there this spring.
With the return of Rafael Furcal at shortstop, general manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals plan to give the 28-year-old Greene plenty of chances to win the competition at second base.
“We do want to see Tyler Greene get a strong opportunity there,” Mozeliak told reporters at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up charity event. “We look at his athleticism and what he’s capable of doing, and seeing that for a large volume of 150 games would be quite interesting to us. We just want to see if he’s capable of doing it.
“I’m not going to write in concrete today what it’s going to look like but I do know we want to give Tyler a very good chance of getting a lot of AB’s in 2012.”
The Cardinals have already seen Greene for 150 games, but it was spread out over the last three seasons. And in the sporadic playing time since he broke into the big leagues in 2009, Greene has at times appeared uncomfortable and overmatched.
Greene hit .323 at Triple-A Memphis last year with 14 home runs and 19 stolen bases, showing off the potential that has folks excited about his future. But in 58 games with the big league club, he hit just .212 and had a .288 slugging percentage.
For whatever reason, Greene has found much more success in the minor leagues than during his time in St. Louis. The right-handed hitting infielder has a career .218 average in 316 at-bats with the Cardinals and has 87 strikeouts to just 30 walks.
But the Cardinals hope everyday playing time and a fresh start with manager Mike Matheny could be what the talented Greene needs to find success at in the big leagues.
“I think when you look at his athleticism, he’s just never really had an opportunity at the major league level to be given that job,” Mozeliak said. “And it’s understandable because we’ve always had competitive clubs and players that were playing better at that time. It’s just about opportunity and we’ll see. Obviously we have 45 days in the spring to sort of work through that and time will tell.
“I definitely think it was an uphill battle for him but I do think people recognized his talent and understood what he was potentially capable of doing. … It’s a different situation this year. Second base is open and that’s where we are going to try and give him a shot.”
Dan Descalso and Skip Schumaker figure to get a look at second base this spring as well.
Greene lives near the Cardinals spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., and has already been working out and taking ground balls at second base. A former Georgia Tech shortstop, Greene hopes to take advantage of the open door at second.
“I’m just making sure I am ready to play,” Greene said. “You never know what’s going to happen throughout the spring so just come in ready to play. Obviously the idea is to play as much as you can, so that’s going to be my mentality in spring training.
“I’m just really trying to find an opportunity wherever it’s open. … It’s an open spot so there’s going to be some competition for that spot. Everybody is going to be working towards it and working hard. I’ll come in ready to go.”
Asked about Matheny and others’ belief that his struggles with the big league club came from putting extra pressure on himself to succeed, Greene didn’t disagree.
“There were different circumstances,” Greene said. “I was out there every day down there (at Triple-A), and up here it was a little bit different of a role. I agree, that’s something I am going to have to work out and be as comfortable as possible. If I’m able to do that, I think I’ll be fine.”
With Greene out of options, he’s either got to stick with the big league club out of spring training or risk being claimed off waivers by another club.
It’s a make-or-break spring for Greene, but the Cardinals hope he can relax and find what worked for him at Triple-A. And they plan to give him every opportunity to do that.