Hard-hitting first-baseman Matt Adams arrived at St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp with hopes of making the major league club as a bench bat and defensive reserve at first base. Healed after August wrist surgery to remove bone chips prematurely ended his 2012 season, Adams reported he had lost 10-15 pounds over the winter.
On Saturday, the left-handed hitter went 2-for-4 with two of the Cardinals’ three RBI while playing the entire first game of the spring at first base. Though Adams came up with a bit of swelling in his left knee afterward, it is not expected to be serious.
However, what is serious was a Sunday announcement by manager Mike Matheny that sore-kneed and aging right-fielder Carlos Beltran will likely not be used much at all in centerfield in 2013. An unspoken by-product of the decision was to eliminate Adams from contention for the bench spot for which he was competing.
The logic is simple. Beltran, who turns 36 on April 24, has great value to the team as an every-day hitter. Keeping him healthy and productive is paramount.
As we saw in 2012, Beltran’s results dropped off in the second half and it is viewed that keeping him out of centerfield entirely will help. Of course, more frequent rest should be important, as well.
What that means for the Cardinals’ make up is that a reserve centerfielder will be needed on the 25-man roster to back up left-handed hitting Jon Jay. The club is not going to count on the switch-hitting Beltran to play that role, other than perhaps in an emergency.
While that is great for one of the three of Shane Robinson (who was with St. Louis most of last season and has the benefit of hitting right-handed), LHH Adron Chambers or non-roster invitee and RHH Justin Christian, it pretty much eliminates any chance for Adams to make the team out of camp.
Adams best hope now would be for an injury to another to create an unexpected opening. Otherwise, it appears the 24-year-old will once again be Memphis-bound, despite general manager John Mozeliak having admitted that Adams has nothing left to prove in the minors.
There is no doubt having Adams’ bat ready to come off the bench in late innings for St. Louis would be a step up over any of the centerfielders, but the health ramifications for Beltran are considered to be more important.
So, while Adams’ own knee problem is a bit concerning, it is Beltran’s knees that seem to have taken out Adams’ best opportunity to open the season with St. Louis.