As the Cardinals set into full squad camp for 2011, there is little debate out there. The starting eight are set. The bench has a little flexibility, but not a lot. The starting rotation is well in place. The bullpen, with a few exceptions, looks to be in place. Spring Training, for the first time in a long time, seems to just be a workout period for the established players.
Writers, bloggers, and avid fans hate a spring like this. What is there to talk about? I cannot talk about Jaime Garcia forcing his way into the rotation, who is the fourth outfielder, or what rookie will break camp. It takes the wind out of our sail and leaves us scrambling to come up with a few words for you.
In that interest, many of us have taken to looking at the batting order. We all know Albert will hit third and Holliday fourth, but there is little certainty after that. When the manager himself was confronted with it lately, he added another certainty – Berkman will hit fifth.
Since the Berkman signing, few things have been debated more than where Big Puma would hit in the lineup. During analysis of the signing, he seemed to fit the mold of a Tony LaRussa number two hitter. He provided the “pop” that Tony likes from that spot in the order, he provided a high on base percentage in front of the big hitters, and he was a patient hitter that would benefit from hitting in front of Pujols. He seemed to be, historically, exactly what the team hoped Colby Rasmus would become (and still hopes he will become, yet).
With the middle of the lineup set, it leaves to debate the placement of Colby Rasmus and David Freese more than any of the other eight. Skip Schumaker or Ryan Theriot will surely lead off. Yadi will hit no higher than seventh on a regular basis and most likely hit exactly there. Freese is best suited, in my opinion, to hit sixth. If that is the case, then the skipper would hit Rasmus in the two slot, at least initially. The alternative to that is to hit Schumaker or Theriot – whichever one is not leading off – second, bump Rasmus to sixth, Freese to seventh and Molina to eighth. It makes far more sense to me to hit Rasmus second, Freese sixth, Molina seventh, and the loser of the leadoff man sweepstakes at the bottom of the order.
Spring Training 2011 will not be full of exciting moments or events to debate, but at least with Tony LaRussa at the helm, we can analyze the lineup for Opening Day. Of course, he will change it on day two….and three….and four…
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
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