April 8, 2009

Spring Training may be over, but tryouts continue

Make no mistake, the Cardinals may have set a 25-man roster (by rule), but they are nowhere near setting a starting lineup.

As if TLR could resist tinkering if he had a cut-and-dried set of eight plus-pitcher.

It's Game #3 and the Cards are the only team in baseball with a rotation for pitchers and third basemen. Tonight it's David Freese's turn to compete for the starting job. Yesterday it was Joe Thurston. The day before that it was Brian Barden.

Don't mistake this merry-go-round for platooning, either. That's what the outfield is doing, and the Cards' outfield is a perfect example of excellent "platoonmanship."

The big league Redbirds almost had a rotation for second base as well, but that pretty much got resolved in Spring Training. Now that there's basically only Skip Schumaker and Brendan Ryan at second, we can disguise the subtle tryout as platooning by using words such as "splits" and the more catch-all "strategy."

In the bullpen, probably half the firemen would call it the ongoing competition to remain in the bigs while the other half (the ones who know every Rest Area between the Lou and Memphis and down which exact aisle in which convenient store the Slim Jims and Twinkies can be found) know they are trying out every day, and realize they are damned lucky to be doing so in a big league ballpark.

The idea that thing were still in tryout mode was given away when it was announced (reportedly by TLR that Freese would start tonight. The fact that such a decision had been made over 24 in advance of the game tells you this is TLR with a plan that takes priority over the refined judgements he and staff make down to the last hour or so prior to game time to put together yet another different lineup.

But while a tryout for a half-season position such as third base seems silly and even downright counterproductive going into a new season, it's probably a safer plan than blindly picking one player out of the three and hoping things pan out, and worse, never knowing when and if things didn't pan out whether the other choices might've been better or worse, because they were never there.

Just so happens that the way the 25-man roster feel into place, it was "do-able" to bring all these "prospects" north to figure things out.

We'll only really know for sure when the necessity for another hurler comes to the fore.

For now, the Cardinals' tryouts continue.

photo by Barbara Moore