Pitchers and catchers report for St. Louis Cardinals on February 17th with position players on the 21st. Full squad workouts will be on Feb. 22nd. MLB mandates ALL players being in camp by Feb. 26th Exhibition games will start on the 27th. The Cardinal's first exhibition game will be on the 28th. The exhibition season will end for the team on March 29th.
It will not be a 30 game schedule as it has been in the past. The schedule has been reduced to 24 games. Also, there will be no Inter-squad games or Split squad games. There will also be no games against college teams. The Cardinals will play only four other teams. This is by the MLB home office to cut down on travel and deuce Covid exposure risk. All Florida teams have been broken into groups. The Cardinals will be grouped with the Marlins(who share Roger Dean Stadium), Astros, Mets, and Nationals. Each team will have six games against each other, three at home, three away. (of course, for the Marlins and Cardinals, get an extra three games at Roger Dean as visitors.
Also, there are health and safety protocols this year.
1. Managers can jointly agree to end games after only five innings through March 13. After that, they have to play at least seven.
2. The defensive manager can choose to end an inning before three outs in games played up until March 14 as long as the pitcher has thrown 20 pitches.
These rules are to compensate teams because of having fewer players in camp for safety concerns.
Now for the Cardinals.
The Cardinals will have 65 players in camp. The current 40 man roster (which has two open spots) and 27 non-Roster invitees. The numbers look like this;
Thirty-three pitchers- 22 from the 40 man roster; Genesis Cabrera*, Seth Elledge, Junior Fernandez, Jack Flaherty, Giovanny Gallegos, John Gant, Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks, Kwang Hyun Kim*, Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Andrew Miller*, Johan Oviedo, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Johan Quezada, Alex Reyes, Angel Rondon, Adam Wainwright, Tyler Webb*, Kodi Whitley and Jake Woodford.
11 non-roster; Jesus Cruz, Connor Jones, Evan Kruczynski*, Mathew Liberatore*, Tommy Parsons, Roel Ramirez, Griffin Roberts, Domingo Robles*, Zack Thompson*, Austin Warner*, Garret Williams*.
9 catchers- 4 from 40 man roster; Ivan Herrera, Andrew Kinzner, Yadier Molina, Ali Sanchez.
5 non-roster Aaron Antonini^, Tyler Heineman@, Dennis Ortega, Pedro Pages, Carlos Soto^.
14 infielders- 7 from the 40 man roster; Nolan Arenado, Matt Carpenter*, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman@, Paul Goldschmidt, John Nogowski, Edmundo Sosa
Seven non-roster; Luken Baker, Nolan Gorman*, Evan Mendoza, Max Moroff@, Delvin Perez, Kramer Robertson, Jose Rondon.
Ten outfielders six from 40 man roster; Harrison Bader, Dylan Carlson@, Austin Dean, Tyler O'Neill, Lane Thomas, Justin Williams*
Four non-roster: Conner Capel*, Scott Hurst*, Lars Nootbaar*, Justin Toerner*
This list includes; 10 LHP, 8 LH hitters, and 4 Switch hitters.
*denotes LHP, ^ denotes hits Left, @ denotes switch hitter.
So who breaks camp on the 26 man roster?
Well, let's start with pitching and the stone-cold lead pipe locks; (my picks are in bold)
The Rotation - Little doubt that three spots are settled. One spot is a safe bet, and one spot open.
My locks are (In no particular order) Flaherty, Mikolas, and Wainwright, My safe bet in Kim. There are at least four who will be in contention; Cabrera, Martinez, Reyes, and Ponce de Leon. Who can join the party? Zach Thompson, Matthew Liberatore are the two I see as being able to get put into the mix at least early in the Spring. It may depend on whether the Cardinals want 2 LH starters or just 1. I see an LH starter somewhere in the Rotation.
The Bullpen - I see an eight-man pen as the regular five-man rotation may be altered somewhat.
Closer - Hicks is back and should be your closer
late-inning setup - Miller from the left side and Gallegos from the right side these two make the most sense. Others would be Reyes from the Right and Either Cabrera or Kim from the left.
Gant, Reyes, and Ponce de Leon are my flex guys who can do short or middle even long relief/spot start.
Webb, I think, has a job unless we get LH heavy. A couple of names to look for for the final spot could be Fernandez, Whitley, Helsley, Jesus Cruz, or Austin Warner.
Catcher - Undecided...... Okay, Okay, sorry. Obviously, it would be Molina. (No duh, Einstein). The debate starts after that. The initial thought was that Kinzner, If not, the Starter would be the backup. But with the recent acquisition of Ali Sanchez, things are in a quandary here. With a 26 man roster, you would have the ability to carry three catchers. We all know that in probably two years, Ivan Herrera is slated to be the Cardinal backstop. So the next question is, are we grooming Knizner? Heineman is intriguing here because he is an LH bat, which could be used on the bench. Would they want Knizner to get regular at-bats in AAA? Is Sanchez a better Defensive back up? With Yadi as the starter, it tends to make this decision a little dicey.
The infield - Yeah, I know these are no brainers here
1B Goldschmidt, 2B Edman, SS DeJong, 3B Arenado. The Redbirds will carry two extra infielders, one for the corner slots and one middle infielder. Unless moved by then, Carpenter would be your corner guy relieving Arenado and Goldschmidt with the ability to play second in a pinch. For the middle, it would seem that Sosa would be the odds on choice here, but Max Moroff and Jose Rondon can also play not only SS and 2B but 3B as well. This could be a real battle between these three. Moroff might have a slight edge because he is a switch hitter, but it will be a battle.
The Outfield - Over 30 need not apply.
By any stretch of the imagination, our outfield is YOUNG! The oldest candidate is Austin Dean at 27 (Bader will be 27 in June).
Carlson was brought up last year to "get his feet wet," Dean and Williams did not see much action, and Thomas got hit by Covid and was never the same. This year it could be wide open. I see the initial order being this; O'Neill LF, Bader CF, and Carlson in RF. Thomas will be the one to watch. It would not surprise me in the least to see Thomas in the OF as a starter in CF or either corner position. Dean and Williams could both make a play at a corner slot or bench bat, with Williams having the upper hand in that he hits from the left side. The four non-roster invitees are also LH hitters as well. SO we could see an LH hitting outfielder as a back-up/bench bat. My bet is Williams, but Conner Capel has been a name mentioned as an up and comer. I would love to hear Shannon have fun with Lars Nootbaar as well.
So to wrap up, my 26 man roster is as follows.
Rotation 4 of 5; Flaherty, Mikolas, Wainwright, Kim, and TBD
Pen 7 of 8; Hicks, Miller, Gallegos, Reyes, Ponce de Leon, Gant, Webb, and TBD
Catcher 1of 2; Molina and TBD(1 or 2)
Infield 5 of 6; Goldschmidt, Edman, DeJong, Arenado, Carpenter and TBD
Outfield 5 of 5; Carlson, Bader, O'Neill, Thomas, and Williams
Much is going to depend on how many pitchers we carry. If we only carry 12, we could add a third catcher or use Edman as a spot OF the only carry four and add an extra infielder. With the decrease in games and NO split-squad or inter-squad games. Most of the guys like Helsley, Dean, Perez, Whitley, Woodford, Heineman will have to come ready to play. I think that also goes for guys like; Carlos Martinez, Harrison Bader, and Matt Carpenter. All in all, it should be a very interesting Spring Training.
Those are my thoughts.