In a tick over two weeks, the Cardinals will be in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, preparing to take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first game of Major League Baseball’s regular season. As the number of remaining games in the exhibition season dwindles down, the Cardinals will have to wrap up and declare a winner to their positional battles. Carrying over a popular occurrence from last season, another position has opened for grabs as the aftereffect of an injury. The other skirmish has been lingering since early in the season last year.
Shortstop Jhonny Peralta tore his left thumb ligament in a game on March 5. In turn, Peralta underwent surgery on March 10. According to the tentative plan of him wearing a cast for four to six weeks and then rehabbing for a month after, the Cardinals are expecting Peralta to be absent until at least June. Replacing Peralta, who has served as one of St. Louis’s largest offensive threats since they extended a four-year, $52 million deal to him in November of 2013, will not be an easy task.
There are three players in the mix to fill Peralta’s vacancy.
One of those players is Aledmys Diaz, a 25-year-old shortstop who the Cardinals signed out of Cuba in 2014. Diaz has yet to receive any time at the major-league level, but his statistics in the minors are hard to ignore. In 425 at-bats between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis last season, Diaz slashed .278/.339/.445 with 43 extra-base hits, including thirteen home runs. This spring, Diaz is 8-for-32 with three doubles and has appeared at short in 63 innings, third base in six, and second base in eight.
Greg Garcia received a look at the major-league life season, yet he managed to compile over 300 at-bats in Triple-A Memphis. With the Redbirds, Garcia batted .294 with nineteen doubles and sixteen stolen bases. He showed with St.Louis and Memphis that he is capable of moving around the infield. Nearly 72% of Garcia’s 919 defensive innings last season between St. Louis and Memphis came at short, and the remaining 28% came at second and third base. Garcia has seven hits in 28 at-bats this spring.
The Cardinals acquired Jedd Gyorko via trade in December with the San Diego Padres, sending outfielder Jon Jay in return. Gyorko give the Cardinals the viable utility infielder that they have lacked for quite some time. With the Padres last season, Gyorko batted .247 with sixteen home runs and 57 RBIs. This spring, Gyorko has played in 46 innings at short, recording nine putouts and seventeen assists.
The Cardinals also have a battle going for the first base position, and that has been around since late May, when Matt Adams tore his quad and landed on the disabled list. The Cardinals turned to Mark Reynolds until they acquired Brandon Moss from the Cleveland Indians in July. Since Reynolds has moved on, the daily first base nod is up for grabs by Adams or Moss; a platoon scenario could also be implemented.
Worthy of noting is that Matt Holliday has received some playing time at first base this spring. In fact, 23 of his 29 defensive innings this spring have been collected at the first sack. However, he is slated to be the club’s left fielder during the regular season.
This spring, Adams has four RBIs in ten games, including a home run. Moss has gone 8-for-26 with three doubles. Moss has showed some defensive versatility as well, including a dazzling catch to rob Detroit Tigers outfielder Justin Upton.
Catcher Yadier Molina has caught 25 innings this spring and began taking swings during the game on Friday. The Cardinals are expecting Molina, who underwent two offseason thumb surgeries, to be ready for Opening Day.
Carlos Martinez has struck out seven batters in just under five innings this spring. In his start on Thursday, Martinez struck out the first five batters he faced in the matinee against the Tigers
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