ST. LOUIS (AP) Five things to know about the St. Louis Cardinals, coming off their second World Series appearance in three years, as spring training starts:
ARMS GALORE: Shelby Miller won 15 games his rookie season but worked just one inning in the postseason for two reasons: The front office worried about arm fatigue, and fast-rising fellow rookie Michael Wacha filled the innings void and then some. ”It’s tough to not get to pitch in the postseason, but at the same time we had a good thing going,” Miller said. ”I was a little upset I didn’t pitch. I put it away.” The leash won’t be so tight on Miller this year on a rotation that’s even deeper with lefty Jaime Garcia (shoulder) ready to be eased back into the mix and might not have room for Joe Kelly, a stalwart the second half of last season. Ace Adam Wainwright won 19 games and was second in NL Cy Young balloting, Miller was third in NL Rookie of the Year voting and Wacha was NL championship series MVP. ”Good pitching doesn’t really have a slump,” second baseman Mark Ellis said. ”Offense can go in a slump but if you have those pitchers out there, you always have a chance to win.
SHORTSTOP SOCK: Free agent pickup Jhonny Peralta certainly landed on his feet coming off a 50-game drug suspension, getting a four-year, $53 million deal. He’s a significant offensive upgrade over Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, who shared the position last year. The 31-year-old Peralta has reached double digits in homers every year since 2005. ”He’s been a good offensive guy, a good defensive guy. I think he’s going to help us,” All-Star catcher Yadier Molina said.
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CENTER FIELD NOD: General manager John Mozeliak announced Peter Bourjos as the starting center fielder not long after acquiring him from the Angels in a trade for former World Series MVP David Freese. The Cardinals value Bourjos’ defensive prowess and he’s fast enough to add the steal threat to a team that hasn’t done much running. Incumbent Jon Jay could push for playing time, and waiting in the wings is prize prospect Oscar Tavarez.
CLOSER CRUNCH: Jason Motte is set to return from reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him all last season, but not in the same role. For now he’s a potential setup man behind hard-throwing youngster Trevor Rosenthal, who was nearly untouchable after taking over as closer in mid-September. ”They don’t know it, but I’m still competing for a starting spot in spring,” Rosenthal said, before adding, ”I’m just kidding.”
VETERAN INSURANCE: The plan calls for rookie Kolten Wong, a first-round draft pick in 2011 and one of the organization’s top prospects, to open the year as the starter at second base with Matt Carpenter, coming off a breakout year, moving to third. General manager John Mozeliak plays down Wong’s struggles in an abbreviated look last year, saying, ”All of us who have gotten to see Kolten play believe in him.” Still, if Wong falters there’s a viable backup option in Ellis, who started last year in the NL championship series against St. Louis and got a free agent deal. ”They didn’t promise me anything,” Ellis said. ”I want to help Kolten get to be a better player, too.”