Time seems to move faster as we get older. I remember thinking, as a kid, summers would never end, the school year took entirely too long, and I would never be old enough to drive. Now I can’t believe I’ve been out of college almost 20 years, and it definitely seems like only yesterday James Loney’s line drive hit Matt Holliday in the groin. Didn’t the Super Bowl end a couple of hours ago?
This off season, missing a lot of intrigue with the occasional exception (the Cliff Lee trade, Matt Holliday sweepstakes, and Scott Boras overplaying his Johnny Damon hand), passed quickly both literally and poetically. So here we are again, on the brink of another Spring Training, and the 2010 season.
With the first scheduled workout for our Cardinals on the docket Thurdsay, let’s take a look at the upcoming shakedown period, and some of the questions lingering over this team.
1. When will the Mark McGwire sideshow end? He apologized, but really didn’t. He answered questions, but didn’t say much. He made statements about his career that don’t jive with history. The team made him available at Winter Fan Fest, but for only 6 minutes. As the thirst for more information remains unquenched, how long will the storm continue to build before it finally blows over? Will McGwire be able to tutor these Cardinal hitters and get them ready for 2010, or will the constant harping on his steroid use continue to be a major distraction? Will the McGwire distraction upset preparations on the mound, in the dugout, and all over the rest of the complex?
2. How will Brendan Ryan’s surgery impact this team? Last year Troy Glaus waited until January to have his shoulder worked on, and didn’t come back until August. Upon his return he was a shell of his former self. Here we go again with Ryan. Albeit Ryan isn’t the vital power cog in this lineup Glaus was, his play at shortstop solidified the infield last year and was a welcome addition to a team trying to teach a new second baseman on the fly. I suspect Tyler Greene and Julio Lugo will be the primary contenders for the starting shortstop job on Opening Day.
On a separate subject, what is it with the Cardinal medical staff? Shouldn’t the need for this procedure have been identified back in November/December and taken care of then? I find it hard to believe Ryan’s wrist condition worsened so rapidly it required surgery in January when it didn’t require surgery in November.
3. Who will fill out the Cardinal bench? They go into the spring with a very short bench – Tyler Greene, Julio Lugo, Jason LaRue – projected to make the Opening Day Roster. The need for a power bat off the bench is acute. Does the team sign a free agent like Felipe Lopez? Will one of their minor league prospects (ex: Allen Craig) shine and take the slot?
4. What will Brad Penny bring? Can Dave Duncan help Brad recapture the All-Star Game starter form he had two years ago, or will he be the same guy that got slapped around in Boston last season? Brad Penny c.2007 gives the Cardinals three #1 starters, and makes them the de-facto team to beat in the NL; not even Philadelphia can match that rotation. Brad Penny c.2009 means there will be two rookies in this rotation behind Carpenter, Wainwright, and whatever Lohse has left. That rotation makes the NL Central wide-open in 2010.
5. Has Kyle Lohse healed? He started 4-0, was hit by a pitch, and was never the same. Can he recapture his 2008/Apr 2009 form?