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Utility Fills

It's gonna be a quick one this morning, folks. I'm more than a little strapped for time. (if I listen really hard, I can hear a faint sound of cheering)

Well, we had our first tie of the spring yesterday. It was actually a pretty decent game; the pitching in particular was encouraging. Todd Wellemeyer got the start and was solid, going four innings, giving up two runs, (one earned) five hits, and one walk. I'll take some more of that, please. Give me about two or three more innings at that performance level and all of a sudden we've got a pretty serviceable pitcher. Really, Welley's been fairly strong this spring, with an ERA under 3.00 so far. He's still been a little erratic with his control at times, but he hasn't completely lost it yet as he did at times last season, so I'm mildly encouraged by the early returns.

The rest of the staff was solid as well, especially Izzy. He threw one perfect inning, and took only six pitches to do so. I'll take some more of those too.

Colby Rasmus was on base three times out of five plate appearances, with two walks and an infield hit. He stole two bases as well; everyone was angry he didn't come through at the end. I love how everybody fixated on his strikeout in the ninth, conveniently ignoring what he did the rest of the day. He made a bad play in the outfield and struck out in a key spot. He also had a .600 OBP for the day, and, as Hardcore Legend pointed out in yesterday's thread, employed some sort of strange tactic that we Cardinal fans are not particularly familiar with to advance on the base paths. I think it's becoming pretty clear that Colby is going to start the year in Triple A, and I'm pretty okay with that. It's actually what I felt was probably the most prudent course all along. I'm somehow still a little bothered by the whole thing, though, because as much as I agree with the move, I don't think I agree with the reasons it's being made for. Oh well. Maybe I'm just looking for reasons to complain.

The outfield is starting to come a little bit clear. Skip's in, Rasmus is out, Barton and Juan are still fighting it out, although I still think Juan has the inside track. The bullpen is an absolute mess; I don't have anywhere near enough time to attempt to make any sense of that miasma this morning. There is, however, one spot on the roster that I'm finding the competition to fill absolutely riveting.

With the departure of Scott Spiezio, the utility infielder spot opened up, particularly for a player who specialised more in the corner positions, rather than up the middle. Adam Kennedy and Cesar Izturis are going to be the starting middle infield, as least for awhile, whether you like it or not. Aaron Miles will back both of them up, again, like it or not. That last spot, though, that jack of all trades spot, is completely open, and we're seeing a very intriguing story line playing itself out there.

Joe Mather and Brendan Ryan have emerged as the frontrunners for that roster spot, and by frontrunners, I mean that I don't think any of the other candidates are really in the picture anymore. So which one of these guys would be best?

Ryan is, at this point, more of the know quantity. That's not saying a whole lot, as his major league experience amounts to just a few months worth of time and fairly limited exposure in that time, but that's still more than what Mather has. Ryan's skill set offers good speed, as he has shown the ability to make things happen on the base paths. He's not the most efficient of basestealers, but he does have the speed to get a little creative. He has above average range in the field, and he's versatile enough to play all three infield spots outside of first. Technically, I'm sure he could play first as well; I just don't know how well. He looks to be able to hit for a decent average, albeit not quite at the standard he established last year. He offers little in the way of power, and his average independent on base skills are not impressive, (although, come to think of it, he does get hit fairly often) and so he will probably be on the roster due to his skill with the glove; any offense you receive from him is purely a bonus.

Joe Mather, on the other hand, is nearly the exact opposite of Ryan. He's a physical specimen, offering tremendous bat speed and power. As a bat off the bench, he would seem to offer a similar profile to what Eduardo Perez gave the Cardinals a couple of years back. He came up as a third and first basemen, but due to organisational roadblocks at each position, was moved to the outfield. He doesn't have the actions or range to play the middle infield at all, so he's a little less versatile. He does offer a bit more in the outfield, having played regularly out there, whereas Ryan played all of about four or five innings in the outfield last season, if I remember correctly. Mather has good speed as well, although it plays better once he's underway, rather than being the fast twitch, first step quickness that Brendan Ryan offers. Mather has played only briefly at the AAA level, and didn't light the world on fire there. However, he does offer a profile closer to what the Cardinals lost in Scott Spiezio, in that he plays the corner IF positions and the outfield, and offers extra base pop off of the bench.

So which one will it be? Ryan, with his speed, defensive versatility, and energy? Or Mather, with his power and superior overall production with the bat? The choice is yours, El Vivi Birders. For my own part, I'm undecided, but I have to admit to being awfully intriged by Mather. I love his bat, I like the corner infield background, and I think that his offensive profile is similar to Juan Gonzalez's. If Mather's on the roster, I think Barton stands a better chance of staying in St. Louis, rather than receiving a plane ticket back to Cleveland. I really can't quite make up my mind on this one yet, though. Someone convince me one way or the other.

By the way, in case you haven't heard yet, Anthony Reyes is going to take Joel Pineiro's spot on the mound today. Good luck, Anthony. For his sake and ours, he needs to right the ship. The need isn't becoming any less pressing, with the Cards' starters currently dropping like flies yet again. We need you, Anthony. We really, really do.

Later, everybody.