Mailbag: Will Gonzalez make the cut?
Beat reporter Matthew Leach answers Cards fans' questions
We've passed the midpoint of Spring Training, and it's 2 1/2 weeks until the Cardinals break camp for two exhibition games in Springfield, Mo. It's time for the staff to start getting an idea of what the 25-man roster will actually look like, so hopefully, we observers can do the same.
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With Juan Gonzalez trying to make a comeback and so many younger guys that can play the outfield, what are the real chances of Igor making the team?
-- Raul R., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
They've dipped a bit since his hot start at the plate, but the next couple of weeks will be much more of a test. Quite a few people are curious to see how Gonzalez holds up to playing the outfield, which he hasn't had to do thus far.
It appears that Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan (health permitting) and Ryan Ludwick are all but set, and manager Tony La Russa recently said that Skip Schumaker would have to "play his way off" the roster rather than having to play his way on the roster.
That seems to leave three players for one spot: Gonzalez, Colby Rasmus and the hard-charging Brian Barton. A few days ago, I expected Gonzalez to win, but Barton is making his case more and more emphatically.
Joe Mather, an outfielder, is listed on the depth chart at first base. Does he have a better shot at making the team there as opposed to the outfield? What is your opinion of him and his chances of being in St. Louis instead of Memphis, Tenn., in April?
-- Tammy B., Bristol, Tenn.
First of all, Tammy, can you get me race tickets?
No? OK, on with your question.
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It's definitely not an either/or in Mather's case. What makes him an interesting candidate for the roster is that he plays the outfield -- certainly both corners and possibly center in a pinch -- as well as first base and maybe even third. That ability has value, especially on a La Russa team. I still think Mather's got a bit of an uphill climb, but his stock is definitely rising.
I've been reading lately about in-house candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation. What are the chances of, say, Kyle McClellan of making the roster, and is he someone that could maybe become an exciting story?
-- Aaron B., Cooter, Mo.
McClellan seems to have a genuinely decent chance of making the roster, but his chances of cracking the rotation out of Spring Training are slim. It's pretty much been set up as a three-horse race for two spots; he'd have to really dazzle to get in there.
However, there is an open bullpen spot, ideally for a long reliever. I think McClellan has a legitimate shot of winning that job, with Mike Parisi as another potential candidate.
Do you think Jason Motte can make the roster? He seems to throw harder and harder, and he improves his game every day. Pitching is new for this former catcher, and it appears that his potential is endless.
-- Brenton D., Yonkers, N.Y.
In the short term, it's probably a tough go for Motte, because as I noted above, they're likely looking for a long man in that final spot in the bullpen. However, Motte has been extremely impressive this spring. The staff not only loves his stuff, but his aggressiveness. He needs to refine his command some, but he's another guy who has improved his standing within the organization this spring. Down the road, I expect he'll make it to St. Louis, just not on Opening Day 2008.
Whatever happened to Reggie Sanders?
-- David W., St. Charles, Mo.
Sanders spent the past two years playing for the Royals, but he had a harder and harder time staying healthy. At last report, Sanders was hoping to sign on with a western team for one more go, but he remains unsigned at this point. There appears to be a good chance he will retire.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.