Ready…Set…

The St. Louis Cardinals start their regular season in less than a week in Miami against the Marlins.

Just has a nice ring, doesn’t it?

The 25-man roster is set as of Friday. Sure, a few wrinkles have to be ironed out…no one is really sure who will hit leadoff, the second slot also may be up in the air, Rafael Furcal is not himself so far this spring, who is going to play the majority of games at second base, and how will a bench full of youth rise to the occasion when called upon to get a hit when the team is in a tight spot?

All of those lingering decisions come to a head Wednesday evening when the Cards open their season with a semi-ridiculous single game at the Marlins’ new stadium. Then it’s off to Milwaukee, where the Cardinals will kick off a stretch of 27 games in a row vs. the NL Central.

It is really hard to focus in on only positives or only negatives at a time like this. The Cardinals saw significant turnover—in terms of who left, not how many—this past offseason. They will open the 2012 campaign without Chris Carpenter, Skip Schumaker, or Allen Craig. But they also have Carlos Beltran set to make his Cardinals debut. The pitchers who are still with the club have looked pretty good so far. And they have three players (Erik Komatsu, Shane Robinson, Matt Carpenter) who will be on a Major League roster on Opening Day for the first time in their careers, which confirms the Cards’ system continues to churn out talent.

The biggest key to the 2012 campaign for the Cardinals will be health and durability. They already have three solid contributors on the disabled list to start the season; consequently the organizational depth is once again tested from the get-go. But the list of Cardinal players who have extensive, recent injury issues and the 25-man roster look strikingly similar. Is this a team that will be proven to be made of glass? It’s easy to lean on the idea of “Hey, the 2011 season started out pretty rough but look how that turned out!” but that only gets a team so far. If half the active roster appears to be made of glass, no amount of personnel shifts will ever be enough.

Ah, but that’s why they play the games (and so many of them). The MLB season truly is a marathon, not a sprint. The Cards could end up with a healthy and complete lineup by the All Star Break and be in good shape for the second half of the season. Why not?

Game number one in 2012 is just a couple days away, and all questions will begin to be answered.

Chris Reed also writes for InsideSTL Mondays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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