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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Adams’ MLB chances take a knee (or two)

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.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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17 Responses to “Adams’ MLB chances take a knee (or two)”

  1. blingboy says:

    We need Matt to get more MLB exposure, and hit a few more homers, so as to increase his value.

    The IF/Ut part of the roster is looking like it will be rather cluttered up. Maybe we can go with one less of them for a while. Or one less pitcher early on.

    • Brian Walton says:

      Given the questions about health and inexperience in the rotation could mean more bullpen innings, going one pitcher short seems less likely to me.

      Carpenter becoming a real second baseman could help Adams a bit perhaps by clarifying some of the infield jam you mention. Hard to count on that at this point, however.

      • Nutlaw says:

        If Carpenter wins the second base job, then Furcal goes on the DL, Cedeno plays short, and Descalso backs up MI? If Furcal is healthy, then Descalso would have to be demoted to make room, no?

        If Descalso mans second and all are healthy, then Carpenter, Wiggy, Cedeno, and Cruz have spots locked up aside from a CF. The only way Adams fits there is if Carpenter and/or Craig man CF. That doesn’t seem ideal. Think Cedeno could handle it?

        Is Beltran/Robinson an upgrade over Taveras/Adams?

        • Nutlaw says:

          Beltran/ Taveras? There’s no question that Taveras can outhit Robinson, Chambers, and Christian right now. Beltran is a little weaker as a LHB, so maybe they platoon to rest him? It’s not crazy. Sure, Taveras would best be suited playing every day, but it would give the team its best chance to win right now.

          Demote Descalso or DL Furcal and you could theoretically have Taveras, Adams, Wigginton, Carpenter/Cedeno, and Cruz as a bench. How cool would that be?

          • blingboy says:

            The problem is Wiggy. We’ve got MCarp and DD to fill in at 3B. He’s like a third nut hanging around.

            Adams would be a better use of the roster spot. He and Carp would have 1B backup covered. I don’t get it.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Taveras isn’t ready and shouldn’t be on the bench to play a day or two each week. I see the realistic bench if everyone is healthy as CF, Cruz, Wigginton, Cedeno, Carpenter/Descalso.

            If Furcal can’t go, then plug in Kozma to the bench with Cedeno starting. That isn’t the roster I prefer to see, but that is what I think would happen.

            • blingboy says:

              How do we know Taveras isn’t ready? What aspects of his game need work?

              • Brian Walton says:

                Baserunning, defense, concentration.

                Don’t get me wrong. I am not down on him at all. We need to remember that he was a teenager until midway through last season and his game still has some growing to do. There is no need to rush the next big thing. He will show when he is ready.

                Coincidentally, I am preparing an article for the main site in which I explain other reasons why players like Miller and Taveras should spend more time in the minors.

            • Nutlaw says:

              The backup CF is a waste of a roster spot, though, when doing anything other than playing defense in center if it’s one of the three listed in the article. Just don’t give Jay days off and call someone up when he gets hurt. Carpenter can play CF for half a game.

              • Brian Walton says:

                Frankly, wouldn’t it be easier just to play Beltran in CF once in awhile? Is it really that much more potentially damaging than playing in RF? Obviously, the Cards must think so. As you said, if Jay is injured, an every-day reinforcement from Memphis could be there the next day.

                In the Cards’ defense, the backup CF could also be a pinch runner as the other bench guys are clearly not that.

                P.S. Why do I keep thinking that if TLR was still in charge, we’d be seeing Cedeno in center! 😉

              • JumboShrimp says:

                Backup CF is like backup catcher or backup SS. These are the three most important defensive positions and we want to have someone on the bench who can play the positions.

                It may be fun for fans to indulge in fantasy baseball and stack their bench with five slow moving first basemen, but Mo and Mike do not think so naively. Instead, Mo and Mike want to have a backup catcher; a backup SS; and a backup CF who can field the position, which eliminates Carlos Beltran. We want Carlos to focus on hitting and babying sore knees, not sprinting around CF diving and making catches. That is a job for Jay or Robinson, not for an old soldier like Carlos.

                Matt Carpenter maybe be youngish, but is slow and no CF. Ronny Cedeno makes a more plausible possibility as an emergency CF, but the backup is probably going to be Shane Robinson. Christian and Chambers can play in Memphis.

  2. JumboShrimp says:

    We are paying Beltran $13.5MM to play RF on a part-time basis. It would be folly to risk him running around out in CF. Since his range is much less than in his prime, his defense would be awful in CF. Mike Matheny’s comment is simple commonsense. Beltran is no longer suited to CF. Of course one of our reserves needs to be able to defend CF. With Skip Schumacker a spare CF now out of the picture, the leading candidates are Robinson and Christian.

    Matt Adams is a nice hitting prospect. Matt should be playing everyday for Memphis, not riding the pines in St Lou.

    Spring training does evoke exciting flights of fancy. Yet Mike Matheny is dealing in the practical mundane realities of running a team. He may be a new manager, but he seems wise on this one.

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