Finally, another St. Louis Cardinals Spring Training waypoint: After a post-pitchers-and-catchers-report lull that went surprisingly quickly thanks(?) to Chris Carpenter's season-ending setback and Shelby Miller's phantom shoulder tightness, the Grapefruit League schedule begins in earnest Saturday, with the Miami Marlins drawing Trevor Rosenthal and Michael Wacha off the pile of pitchers I wish were playing in a televised match-up. (The game starts at 12:05 CST, which makes this the gamethread.)
Everybody's in camp—aside from Carlos Martinez, in the middle of some ill-timed border-issues—games are on the schedule, and we're about to pay far too much attention to small-sample-size statistics and amateur kremlinology about Mike Matheny's lineups and defensive alignments. Spring Training!
This seems like perfect timing for a Spring Training Narrative Update.
Matt Carpenter to second base
The Carpenter-to-second experiment has already survived two big tests—the end of the offseason and the first round of pitchers-and-catchers-report stories—but in-game action is going to be the real challenge.
So far the Cardinals sound both serious and optimistic. Jose Oquendo's declared him ahead of the Skip Schumaker experiment, Daniel Descalso is talking about how to win the job back (by hitting!), and I, personally, haven't giggled while talking about the possibility in a few weeks. If Carpenter doesn't fall apart conspicuously over the course of the Grapefruit League schedule it seems like he'll play at least some part in the Cardinals' second-base plans in 2013.
Chris Carpenter's spot in the rotation
In another farm system—almost any other farm system—Chris Carpenter's injury and the laudatory press about Michael Wacha would be generating an unbearable amount of speculation along Mike Leake lines. Instead, it's little more than a slideshow. Even Carlos Martinez's visa problems haven't simplified matters.
With Shelby Miller's shoulder a non-issue, things are as murky as ever. Every avenue for selecting a starter ends up taking a turn you weren't expecting. Joe Kelly is the oldest, and has the most MLB experience, but he's got the least impressive minor league track record; Miller has the most high-minors experience, and he feels "due" because we've heard about him for so long, but he's four months younger than Trevor Rosenthal; Rosenthal made the most striking major league impression, but it was as a reliever and he's a year removed from the Midwest League.
My guess is still Shelby Miller, but I think the Grapefruit League could actually have a lot to do with the way this turns out; it feels like a genuine competition, at least for the moment.
Rafael Furcal's health
This one, unfortunately, is only getting more complicated. Furcal is currently not hitting or fielding at full strength, and the Cardinals are currently suggesting he's still on schedule. All we can really do is wait for one of those two conditions to change, and watch Ronny Cedeno, Pete Kozma, and Ryan Jackson in the meantime.