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The St. Louis Cardinals' opening day lineup and its orphans

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The St. Louis Cardinals' Opening Day lineup will not be their actual Opening Day lineup. Daniel Descalso to the rescue.


Daniel Descalso is the St. Louis Cardinals' third returning Opening Day second baseman in the last seven years, which is another way of saying that David Freese's injury has given Descalso the honor of appearing in a factoid with Adam Kennedy and Skip Schumaker (and, in between, Brendan Ryan.)

That inherent imperfection is exactly what makes Opening Day lineups fun in the first place—what makes them worth talking about in a world where it's incredibly easy to find team lineups weighted by playing time. They tell us something different: About depth, about plans that fall apart so early we forget they were ever plans. No matter what, the first Opening Day first baseman since 2004 who wasn't Albert Pujols will always be Lance Berkman.

Opening Day lineups leave the mistakes and improvisations intact. For the 2013 Cardinals, it looks like the improvisation will snap Freese's three-year run as Opening Day third baseman and obscure the Matt-Carpenter-to-second-base experiment, if it ends up being scuttled in midseason.

Descalso is one of the easier Opening Day novelties to place: He's an established bench guy (and last year's starter) and he'll probably get plenty of at-bats and innings at the position where he's starting. He's a Type 2 Opening Day Orphan, inasmuch as I've just cordoned off three arbitrary types of Opening Day orphans:

Type 1: The Failed Experiment

A Type 1 orphan—the Berkman—was intentionally and hopefully tossed into the Opening Day lineup, and either had an awful season (Type 1A) or barely had a season at all (Type 1B.) That's Berkman last year (1B), Theriot the year before that (1A), Khalil Greene in 2009.

In 2013 Pete Kozma is the nearest edge case, a combination of injury replacement and intentional experiment; Carpenter would have been the obvious choice if he hadn't been shunted into Type 2. Jon Jay is a good example of a player who's continually been a second choice, a reaction; despite playing a big role in each of the last three seasons, he didn't make his first Opening Day start until 2012.

Type 2: The Competent Backup

Last year's Opening Day lineup was the canonical 2012 Cardinals lineup, from Berkman to Beltran. The same was true in 2011 and 2010, which makes up for the Cardinals' 2009 experience with Troy Glaus.

A backup like Descalso is interesting, Opening-Day-wise, because he's good enough to keep us from panicking, but not quite good enough to make us wonder whether he should be the actual Opening Day Starter. Kyle Lohse earned two Opening Day starts this way, one more than Adam Wainwright has as of this morning.

Type 3: Somebody's gotta do it

Other times you get Brian Barden at third base in place of Troy Glaus.