Opening Day is no longer one day, and many-if-not-most of the St. Louis Cardinals' pitchers and catchers reported some time ago, but the baseball season needs holidays. So forget the actual pitchers and catchers: Monday, February 11 2013 was Pitchers and Catchers Report Day (observed.)
What does that mean for us? Waiting, mostly. More painful, acute waiting, because every year Pitchers and Catchers Report Day (observed) is the day we shed a rough layer of offseason thick skin and start taking baseball—and the fact that it isn't really around—seriously. The only problem is that serious baseball is still farther away than it seems.
That is: It's still three weeks until we'll be able to argue about whether we should enjoy the World Baseball Classic. It's a month and a half until the regular season. News is all third-hand and unquantifiable—Jose Oquendo tells Derrick Goold that Matt Carpenter is doing just fine at second base, and that's useful; that's the stuff we have to go on.
That's better than last month, but not nearly as good as next month. And some narratives are going to be more affected than others.
Lance Lynn "proving himself" in the rotation
This one was so malleable it ended up beating Pitchers and Catchers Report Day—between Chris Carpenter's injury and Lance Lynn's astounding weight loss it seems unlikely that Lynn's rotation spot is really in question, if it ever was.
I could be wrong about this—we could be a month away from Shelby-Miller-redux stories about Lynn having lost the wrong kind of weight, and two months from his being banned from baseball for an illegal beard-growth hormone. But this kind of story, rooted in a desire to motivate a guy who's already important to the team's chances, is the most responsive to pre-Grapefruit-League stimuli.
Matt Carpenter to Second Base
This one we might actually learn something about in February. So much of the Matt Carpenter question is tied up in how seriously the Cardinals are taking it—this is a team that played Skip Schumaker at the position as recently as last year, so it's clear they're willing to get on board with an unconventional, offense-first arrangement at the position. If Matt Carpenter gets significant time there; if he gets more positive keep-covering-this reviews from Jose Oquendo; if we see him playing the position when Grapefruit League action starts—all that's going to move the story forward during the fallow weeks after everybody's finished reporting.
Daniel Descalso and Kolten Wong offer them a lot of cover at the position, in the meantime—both for actual innings in the field and for their weird inactivity at the position in the offseason. Unfortunately, so does Ty Wigginton—it's probably also a "good" sign, such as it is, if we see him playing much third base.
Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal, Joe Kelly, and the No. 5 spot
This one will probably go a little more cagily, because it's not just a matter of a guy taking some innings at a position that's otherwise trending toward replacement level—it's a spot in the rotation, presumably for the whole year.
I think it's going to be Shelby Miller, and another of this week's Post-Dispatch stories—Lilliquist talking up Miller's conditioning and preparedness—corroborates that idea. But I'm willing to believe that some or most of that is cognitive bias; I think Joe Kelly is a reliever, and I've seen Trevor Rosenthal as a reliever, while Shelby Miller has is a perennial No. 1 prospect and spent his brief major league trip in what felt from the beginning like a mop-up or understudy role.
But Kelly did just make 16 major league starts last year, and Rosenthal is coming off a flawless breakout season (and is a few months [one baseball year] older than Miller anyway.) With Jaime Garcia's shoulder still on probation the Cardinals' sixth starter could get an extended Spring Training audition, but we should start getting hints about the Cardinals' plans for their rotation surplus relatively soon.
Jaime Garcia's shoulder
I put this one last because I figure the only news you can get about Jaime Garcia's shoulder in February is the exceptionally bad kind. No matter how good he says he feels and the Cardinals say he looks, the real state of his arm won't be clear until the regular season. In the meantime, no news is just no news.