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all in the outfield

larry bigbie has a stress fracture and will be out a month or two; that creates an early-season spot for skip schumaker, john gall, or possibly even brian daubach. or maybe the brass will keep chris duncan on the roster after all, although in his case i think more time at triple a is a good idea.

just another fissure (pun intended) in the jigsaw puzzle that is stl's outfield. matt leach had words from tony on that very subject at his blog yesterday:

Tony La Russa made his clearest explanation to date as to how he envisions the Cardinals' outfield situation going forward. Essentially, he said, he plans to have four main outfielders rotating into three spots. . . .

"There's four guys that we're looking at. One of them is Juan Encarnacion, one is Edmonds, one is Taguchi. So that leaves one. There's four guys that will play a lot. So it's not left field. It's four outfielders. We're still looking for that fourth guy."

My follow-up question was, does that mean Taguchi's status is different from the other competitors, Gall, Bigbie, etc.? And the answer:

"Absolutely. There was never any doubt about that. Said that from day one."

we are quick to forget, but that's how la russa almost always plays it -- a four- or even five-man outfield rotation, with no strict division between starters and regulars nor even any strict left-right time-shares. last spring was one of the few seasons under TLR in which the cards anticipated having three full-time outfielders -- and of course, ironically enough, injuries gave la russa the change to mix and match as he likes to do anyway.

just two springs ago the outfield medley coming out of spring training comprised edmonds sanders lankford and cedeno, with marlon anderson as an active 5th and later john mabry joining the mix as a 6th. it wasn't until about august 10th, when walker came aboard, that a starters/subs heirarchy emerged.

in 2003 the starting outfield was purportedly pujols in left, edmonds in center, and drew / marrero platooning in right. but pujols made 36 starts at 1st base, and the latter two players both missed most of the season with injuries, so eddie perez and o palmerio combined for 600 at-bats, miguel cairo made 14 starts in the outfield, and kerry robinson got heavily involved too. the scrubs made 168 outfield starts that year.

in 2002 pujols edmonds drew were the "regulars," but eli marrero started 86 games in the outfield, kerry robinson started 20+ times, eddie perez 18, and miguel cairo 10. all told the "bench" combined for about 140 starts in the outfield.

in 2001 lankford edmonds and drew were the nominal regulars, but rookie 3b albert pujols ended up starting 70 games in left and right; craig paquette started 48 games in the outfield, and kerry robinson made 31 starts. so the outfield backups, collectively, started more games than any of the so-called regulars.

even in 2000, with relatively healthy starters at all three outfield spots (lankford edmonds and drew), TLR created 133 starts for his backup outfielders, who included paquette, shawon dunston, eric davis, and thomas howard.

so la russa's blueprint for the outfield this year is the same as ever; nothing new. it's just that the players and roles are as mushy as they were in 2004, when edmonds and sanders rotated in and out with the above-mentioned host.

carpenter gave up his first runs of the spring, departed after 4 2/3 tied at 2-2. spivey has a double and a walk off tom glavine; if they can limit his exposure to left-handers maybe he can still contribute. $1.2m is a lot of money for a 1/3-time player, though . . . .

edmonds and pujols both have solo homers today.