Pitchers and Catchers reported to work on Saturday, but they were not the only players working out at the Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Florida. Since the moment Jason Isringhausen faltered in 2008, the biggest question in Cardinals Country has been, “Who’s going to close?” The oldest question is, “Will Chris Carpenter ever return to the rotation?”
Now, there are other questions. With both Miles and Kennedy gone: “Who is going to play second?” With Troy Glaus rehabbing from surgery until May: “Who is going to play third? Then, the glut of able-bodied outfielders begs the question: Who will fill those outfield spots, who will be on the bench, and who will be back in AAA Memphis?”
Barring injuries, the only certain positions are Albert Pujols at first, Yadier Molina behind the plate and Khalil Greene at shortstop. Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick will most likely find themselves some spot in the outfield on opening day, and Skip Schumaker will lead off somewhere.
So much uncertainty means competition. Big time competition. The players know it, and they are there early to get any edge they can. Everybody in the running for 2B, 3B or an outfield spot is already in camp working out. No one is taking anything for granted.
Many of the 2009 Major League teams will be defined by the free agent they signed or did not sign in the off-season. The 2009 Cardinals will be defined by the strength of their farm system, a system that has come through in the past.
I like it. I like it a lot. Most fans would be more comfortable with fewer questions and more proven veterans, but I like the kids. The young, hungry, talented kids with something to prove. The 25 men on the opening day roster will be young warriors. They will have earned their spot. They will know what it takes to win.