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2013 St. Louis Cardinals Preview

The Cardinals look to return much of their 2012 roster and improve on their 88-win season with a healthy line-up and an improving rotation.

 

The St. Louis Cardinals had to survive the 2012 campaign without the help of their ace Chris Carpenter. While the Cardinals managed to win 88 games and pitchers such as Lance Lynn and Joe Kelley managed to step up and take charge when Jaime Garcia also went down. With Carpenter now expected to miss most of the 2013 campaign as well, all three men will have to put in repeat performances to keep the Cardinals afloat in a NL Central that looks like a three team race between St. Louis, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94) will anchor the Cardinals’ staff this season and they will be looking for innings from him to keep the bullpen well rested every fifth day. Wainwright will be two years removed from Tommy John surgery, so expect to see him back around the 200 inning mark this season and take the staff on his shoulders becoming the ace the ball club needs in Carpenter’s absence. Behind him will be Garcia (7-7, 3.92) who will need to stay healthy and stay focused in order to lighten the load on the middle of the rotation. Lynn is expected to start third and if he can repeat his 18-7, 3.76 ERA 2012 season, the Cardinals have a great shot to repeat their 88 win season or best it by 2 or 3 games which could mean all of the difference in what will likely be a tight division race.

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Jake Westbrook returns for another season and will take the fourth spot in the rotation. Westbrook hung on for a 13-11 record last season but he finished with the highest ERA on the staff at 3.97. The Cardinals will need him to rebound this season as the fifth spot in rotation is up for grabs this spring, and they have no idea what they’re going to get out of the man who fills it. Shelby Miller, Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelley will all compete for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. None of them have a tremendous amount of big league experience, and the organization is not 100% sold on both Rosenthal and Miller becoming starting pitchers. Both look to figure into the plans for 2013, so if one of them does not make the rotation, it is likely that they will end up pitching out of the bullpen at some point this season.

The Cardinals’ bullpen was fairly well set by the end of the 2012 campaign, and they will return their staff this season starting with closer Jason Motte. Motte saved 42 of 49 games last season and when paired with set-up man Michael Boggs the Cardinals have an effective duo to shut down games in the 8 th and 9 th innings. Edward Mujica will start the festivities in the 7 th where he was lights-out for the club at the end of the 2012 season, and newcomer lefty Randy Choate will complement righty Marc Rzepczynski in specialty situations. Kelley, Rosenthal and Miller are all candidates for a possible long-reliever if they do not make the rotation.

 


Offensively, the Cardinals will return the majority of the 2012 squad as well. Second baseman Matt Carpenter is expected to be in the line-up full-time this season which will give the Cardinals another solid bat in their line-up. If the ball club can get full seasons out of right fielder Carlos Beltran, third baseman David Freese and first baseman Allen Craig, the team will have enough to outmatch Cincy and Pittsburgh for the division crown. Catcher Yadier Molina will be back behind the plate for the ball club and should have another solid season at the plate and also returning will be center fielder Jon Jay, left fielder Matt Holliday and shortstop David Furcal, all solid hitters in their own right who should give the Cardinals some consistent at bats and some speed on the bases as well.

The Cardinals look really good on paper, they are returning a really great team from 2012 and they have added a couple of pieces in their bullpen to help them keep winning in tight situations. Their line-up is solid from 1 to 9 and there doesn’t seem any reason why they won’t compete for the National League Central Division crown. Big seasons from Wainwright, Lynn and Westbrook will add up to big wins, and they should improve on last season’s record, going 91-71 and taking the Division title and making it deep into the playoffs. Don't be surprised if they are competing with the Nationals for the National League pennant by the time this season is over.

 

 

By Robert Gonzlez
MLBcenter.com Staff Writer

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