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Your 2009 St. Louis Cardinals

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A little housekeeping—you may have noticed this elsewhere, but the latest SB Nation synergy-type move means that we bloggers get to use AP photos, like the one sitting stage-right of this post. It's all part of their plan to slowly replace bloggers with more reliable photographs, each worth something on the order of a thousand words, but don't worry—with the red baron on our side I'm confident Viva El Birdos will be the last baseball blog standing. 

Now then: Happy days are here! Real baseball news! Real, final decisions! Things to complain about!

The final roster—as of Thursday night—for your perusal: 

YOUR 2009 CARDINALS
FOR A WHILE AT LEAST

LINEUP BENCH ROTATION PEN
C YADIER MOLINA IF JOE THURSTON ADAM WAINWRIGHT JASON MOTTE
1B ALBERT PUJOLS IF BRIAN BARDEN KYLE LOHSE JOSH KINNEY
2B SKIP SCHUMAKER IF BRENDAN RYAN TODD WELLEMEYER RYAN FRANKLIN
3B DAVID FREESE OF COLBY RASMUS CHRIS CARPENTER KYLE McCLELLAN
SS KHALIL GREENE C JASON LaRUE JOEL PINEIRO TREVER MILLER
LF CHRIS DUNCAN DENNYS REYES
CF R?ICK ANKIEL BRAD THOMPSON
RF RYAN LUDWICK

 

When reached for comment Tony La Russa, who looked suspiciously like Brian Barden in a pair of dark sunglasses, said, "I planned on taking 25 utility infielders north, but I had to make some compromises—who would I double-switch them with, otherwise?" He added, "You guys haven't seen Tony around here, have you? You'd tell me, right?"  

If nothing else, this is one way to guarantee plenty of playing time for Colby Rasmus; but the bench, as it stands right now, is impossible to understand—and I say this as, like all of you, an experienced La Russa watcher. After 13 years of this stuff, I'm usually able to at least divine a plausible explanation for his roster machinations, but putting Brendan Ryan and Brian Barden on the same roster, with one backup outfielder, when all four of your outfielders have recently shown a significant platoon split in the same direction—this is a new one. 

Don't get me wrong; his reason for not taking Mather north makes sense:

"He knows that we believe in him," manager Tony La Russa said. "We need him. But right now, his at-bats aren't consistent. His stroke from at-bat to at-bat is not quite what he's capable of doing. ... We've just got to get him right."

I can buy that; Mather got into a prolonged slump at the end of Spring Training, has a limited body of successful at-bats to fall back on, and probably spent most of his spring concentrating on playing a position he was moved off of in 2005. With Glaus's return date currently in the Cardinals Mystery Zone, there's plenty of time for Mather to get his work in and eventually spell a struggling David Freese, or return to man the outfield against tough lefties.

But I think it's impossible to overestimate how well Brian "Enunciate" Barton would fit this roster. Right now the Cardinals' best option against left-handers off the bench is Brian "Slur it" Barden, whose hitting credentials are trailed by a long string of qualifiers—but his best years were in Arizona, in the PCL, but they were also two years ago, but only for an infielder, really, and so on. He's also an infielder, not that that's stopped La Russa before, but if I had to guess I'd say La Russa is chomping at the bit for a chance to bring Barden in as a pinch hitter in the late innings for Duncan et al and then move Schumaker to the outfield.

The Rasmus thing—I appreciate that. Last year the Cardinals had two outfielders reach 150 games and still managed to find at-bats for Barton, only nominally a member of the roster, Duncan, and Mather, and none of them were tagged as Growing Boys like Rasmus; he'll get plenty of chances to play. But there's no need to handicap the team to evince that. I hope La Russa will explain the need to carry three defensive replacements for Skip Schumaker at some point, because I can't even begin to get inside his head on this one. (Maybe he'll bring in a different one based on the particular way in which Schumaker is struggling.) 

If you don't like it, I guess, as fans of really old weather jests are fond of saying, wait five minutes—perhaps use them in silent meditation on the Major League line of one Rico Washington.

The Cardinals take on the Redbirds at 7:05—you can see it on FSN Midwest. I'll have a proto-game-thread up for the occasion.