On Friday the St. Louis Cardinals announced Skip Schumaker has an oblique strain and will be on the shelf for a while. If there was ever a time for Tyler Greene to take advantage of a situation in order to make the Cards’ Opening Day roster as their second baseman, this is it.
Earlier this year, the Cards touted Greene as having every opportunity to win the starting job at second. Greene is out of options, and has been a prospect on the verge seemingly forever. But his 2012 Spring Training has been less than stellar offensively (.136 AVG, 0 HR, 7 K in 22 AB), and Greene has proven to be prone to the yips defensively. The talk always used to be “Greene tightens up around Tony LaRussa.” Well, LaRussa’s gone. So every time Greene goes 0-fer or botches a play in the field this year, it becomes more and more glaring.
To make things even worse, the sure-handed Daniel Descalso has been hitting the ball well (.409, 1 HR, 3 K in 22 AB) so far this preseason. His ability to play all over the diamond makes him an important player; an offensive surge makes him tough to keep out of the lineup at all. Spring Training stats are never anything to get too excited over either way, but when the difference is as stark as it is between Greene and Descalso, it’s kind of hard not to notice.
Normally, Schumaker’s injury may have landed him on the DL had it occurred during the regular season, but such a move is not necessary during Spring Training. He will rest for a few days or a few weeks or whatever it takes. But no matter what, he’s making this club. For one, he makes too much money not to. But Schumaker is also a valuable asset both in the clubhouse and on the field. He is a core player on this team, even if he’s only fringy core, and is one of the leaders on the roster. When the Cardinals head back to St. Louis in a few weeks, Schumaker will be a member of the team.
Perhaps the fact that both Schumaker and Descalso are such valuable and versatile pieces helps Greene some. All he really does well is play middle infield, and when he’s on he can look pretty good doing it. Descalso excelled as a late-inning replacement at third base in 2011, and Schumaker may be needed in the outfield more than anywhere else if his injury heals before Allen Craig’s does. But if Greene continues to struggle and Descalso continues to look locked in, Mike Matheny will have no choice but to start the latter at second. Maybe he employs a platoon at the position when Schumaker returns so he can move both guys around their other positons as necessary, who knows. Regardless, in that scenario—which does not sound at all outlandish—where does Greene fit?
This truly could be do or die time for Tyler Greene. He has received a lot of playing time at second base this spring, and that will only increase while Schumaker recovers. Greene has to find a way to settle down, find his stroke at the plate, and play his game in the field to remind the Cards’ powers that be why they drafted him in the first place. Otherwise his time may finally run out for good with the St. Louis Cardinals.