Winter Warm Up: The Spring Struggle at Second?
Two of the most discussed attendees at the Cardinals Winter Warm Up have been Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter, and their respective places on the team…which happens to potentially be one in the same. While there is no question that with good health, both will break camp in March as members of the Opening Day roster, but in what capacity is up in the air.
The second base spot has been the really the only debatable position within in the starting lineup, sparked by the desire to find more at bats for Carpenter , although Descalso is the incumbent starter from a year ago. While general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny have both given votes of confidence to Descalso for the starting role, neither has disqualified Carpenter from being in the fold for time at the spot either. Both players have shown up in full awareness of the situation at hand, and the opportunity within their reach.
On one hand, there is Descalso, who has a season of starting at the position and makes the team much stronger defensively than any other option in the organization. Of his 96 games played last summer, 74 were played at second, and all but eight were starts. In that time, he established himself as a plus defender, committing only five errors. In regards to his defensive effort, he has worked steadily at improving his output the last few years. “It was one of my weaker parts of my game coming into pro baseball” he said over the weekend “I’ve worked hard on my defense the last couple of years”.
For Carpenter, that has also been the new found focus of his winter as well. After a rookie season that saw him play over 20 games in the outfield, first and third base, respectively, his homework for the winter was to adjust to yet another role. His focus on being ready to get time at second base, a position he played only five games at a year ago, sparingly. It was a decision made mostly to get his bat in the lineup on a more regular basis, partly due to his .294 average and 46 RBI effort a year ago, but also due to Descalso regressing to a .232 clip in his second full season.
It has been a crash course for Carpenter to get acclimated to the role, which has included as much scenario work as he can possibly due at the position. Working on the different scenario plays around the diamond, such as double plays and ground ball simulations hasn’t truly given him an “off” season. “I’ve been pretty encouraged with how it’s going”, he says. “Regardless of how it goes, it won’t affect me and Daniel’s relationship. He’s been a good friend of mine, and we both know it’s just part of the business.”