Spring Training 2012: Rise of the [other] left-handed slap-hitting bench players

Feb 26, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Erik Komatsu (82) makes a leaping catch during workouts at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

This year's Spring Training battles seem designed primarily to illustrate the futility of Spring Training battles—more specifically, the futility of caring about them—and I get that. But I'm not going to lie: It's been a great couple of days for my left-handed slap-hitting bench players of choice. First Skip Schumaker went down with a torn oblique, becoming the latest victim of baseball's Spanish flu. I can't in good conscience root for a player to get hurt, but his injury does make it more likely than it was last week that Erik Komatsu breaks camp with the Cardinals, and not the Syracuse Chiefs.

Komatsu tripled today—in the course of going 3-5—and is now hitting .294/.359/.471 with two doubles, two triples, and four walks, if you like Grapefruit League stats. (Though I guess he's doing that whether you like Grapefruit League stats or not.)

The positional jockeying between Schumaker, Komatsu, and Adron Chambers should really be convincing me that my job is useless, my preferences random, and the difference between players I enjoy and players I don't enjoy basically a fantasy. Instead, I've just become really preoccupied with the Cardinals' ability to maintain control of all three of these future fifth outfielders.

Komatsu seems to project better than Adron Chambers, and Schumaker is a significantly better hitter than both of them, if also one who has no business playing center field. (Chambers and Komatsu even seem to share a disappointing basestealing ability for their apparent footspeed.) But Komatsu's primary advantage, to be honest, is that the Cardinals can only keep him if he makes the team.

Meanwhile: Bryan Anderson now has four doubles in 13 at-bats. This is another of those sample sizes that is aggressively useless, and only interesting inasmuch as Mike Matheny is probably watching these at-bats more closely than he is each backup catcher's minor league record to date.

Of course, he also spent the day as designated hitter, which can be spun out kremlinologically into various positives and negatives—he's been so good they can't keep him off the field! he's so barely a catcher that they want to keep him off the field!—I have no way of verifying.

I'd totally understand Tony Cruz making the team; he's right-handed, the third baseman thing probably strikes a manager as more useful than it really is, and he's got a significantly better arm. But Koyie Hill, who was an offense-first catcher with a bad defensive rep in the minor leagues until his offense collapsed and his reputation underwent the Backup Catcher Reversal, is a complete mystery to me. He also started and went 0-3.

Spring Training fandom in general reminds me a little of playing Baseball Mogul in the offseason. Nothing's really happening, and the stats don't mean anything, but I get wrapped up in it and I can't help but spend some tense minutes deciding between three or four reserve outfielders. It's baseball; after a long offseason all of it seems to be equally and earth-shatteringly important.

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