With nearly a foot of snow now melting, it seems about right that the St. Louis Cardinals are less than a week away from opening the 2013 Major League Baseball season.
The Cardinals kick off the campaign with three games in Arizona starting Monday followed by three games in San Francisco before their home opener against Cincinnati Monday, April 8.
On paper, it looks like another good season is ahead in St. Louis.
The big question is health. This team needs to remain relatively healthy to have a chance to overtake the Reds in the Central Division.
And the season isn’t exactly starting out great in the health department.
It appears closer Jason Motte is headed to the disabled list with an elbow injury.
David Freese has a back issue and Carlos Beltran has something wrong with a toe.
Guys like Jaime Garcia and Jon Jay have had injury problems in the past, and really need to stay healthy this year.
If the overall health of the team holds up, I like the Cardinals’ chances for a return trip to the playoffs.
Like every season, there are questions.
Is Pete Kozma an everyday shortstop? What happens if he struggles? A trade is an option, but the Cardinals don’t want to give up any of their young pitchers.
Another option would be moving Daniel Descalso from second base to shortstop and plugging in Matt Carpenter as the everyday guy at second base.
Allen Craig and Matt Holliday both are poised for big seasons.
The Cardinals don’t have a very strong bench.
Matt Adams is the only player with some punch coming off the bench. Some will say newcomer Ty Wigginton has a power bat, but his best days are behind him.
What’s the plan for rookie phenom Oscar Taveras? He might start the season in Triple A, unless Beltran goes on the DL. Who knows, maybe that will turn into an Albert Pujols replacing Bobby Bonilla thing.
The starting rotation is a bit of a concern to me.
We know Adam Wainwright is the ace and will do his thing. The Cardinals need to reach a new deal with him soon. He is eligible for free agency after this season.
I think Lance Lynn will have a good season. Jake Westbrook and Garcia are question marks. Will they be healthy? Even if they are, how effective will they be?
Shelby Miller has been named the fifth starter. He’ll only get better as the season progresses.
Entering spring training, I felt good about the bullpen. But with Motte now injured, who will start the season as the closer?
The logical choice is Mitchell Boggs. So who pitches the eighth inning? Maybe Trevor Rosenthal?
The Cardinals signed veteran lefty Randy Choate during the offseason, but he’s had a tough spring. Maybe he’ll turn it on when the season begins.
Fellow southpaw Marc Rzepczynski got hurt while playing golf at spring training. He seems OK now, but his spring has been average.
How will the Cardinals use Joe Kelly, who was beat out by Miller for the fifth spot in the rotation? There’s also Fernando Salas and Edward Mujica in the bullpen.
When push comes to shove, I think the Cardinals will be good enough to challenge the Reds, but fall a little short.
The two best teams in the National League are Washington and Cincinnati. Atlanta, San Francisco and St. Louis are a notch behind, but will be in contention.
I just think it will be Washington’s year. The Nationals are loaded with young pitchers, both in the rotation and the bullpen.
Division winners in the National League will be Washington in the East, Cincinnati in the Central and San Francisco in the West. The two wildcard teams will be St. Louis and Atlanta.
The two best teams in the American League are Los Angeles and Detroit.
Think about the Angels’ lineup with Pujols, Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo leading the way.
Division winners in the American League will be Tampa Bay in the East, Detroit in the Central and Los Angeles in the West. The wildcard teams will be Toronto and Texas.
When the smoke clears, I’m going with Washington over the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series.