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Cardinals Start Anew at Spring Training

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St. Louis Cardinals pitchers and catchers reported to Jupiter, Florida for Spring Training last week. Position players followed shortly thereafter as Opening Day is around the corner for Major League Baseball.

Something about this season is different. For the first time since 2001, neither Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, or Adam Wainwright are playing for the Cardinals. Pujols left as a free agent following the World Series win in 2011, only to come back for one last hurrah and hit his way to 700 career home runs in 2022. Molina, a lifetime Cardinals catcher, joined Pujols in retiring at the end of 2022. Wainwright, who had an injury-plagued career, fought his way to 200 career wins in 2023—good enough for a guaranteed Cardinals Hall of Fame induction but doubtful that he’ll join Pujols and Molina in Cooperstown.

Fans have high expectations every year for the team to bring home the club’s 12th world championship. It’s been over a decade since the team’s last World Series appearance in 2013. To say that the club is overdue is not an understatement. The ingredients are there for the Cardinals to make a run for another title as the team has veteran leadership in players such as Paul Goldschmidt—who is working to bounce back from his numbers in 2023—and Nolan Arenado. Neither player has won a postseason game with the Cardinals since joining the team. Matt Carpenter, who came back to the team as a bench player during the offseason, can also fill a leadership position alongside the veteran infielders.

After a disappointing finish to last season, one can only hope that the 2024 season brings with it a fresh start for the team. The team spent the offseason with their priority on rebuilding the pitching rotation. They brought in All-Star pitcher Sonny Gray (3 years/$75 million plus a team option) and welcomed back Lance Lynn.

While the team has not made it official yet, Derrick Goold reports that Gray is expected to start on Opening Day when the Cardinals face the Los Angeles Dodgers. It would make since for the Cardinals to start Gray after signing him as a free agent during the offseason. Gray would become the fifth first-year Cardinals pitcher to get the start on Opening Day. Following Kyle Lohse in 2008, the list includes Darryl Kile (2000), Andy Benes (1996), Vic Willis (1910), and Jack Taylor (1904). In any event, Gray is likely to face Shohei Ohtani at the plate – not on the mound, on Opening Day.

Club leadership also made moves to clear up the logjam in the outfield. By trading away Tyler O’Neill during the offseason, the Cardinals have shown that Lars Nootbaar is the team’s left fielder and Tommy Edman will be starting in center. Edman moved to center in 2023 after previously playing short stop and second base. Last season, he played in only 42 games at center. He is starting Spring Training by recovering from wrist surgery during the offseason. As a result, his Opening Day status is up in the air. Meanwhile, Dylan Carlson is the team’s odd man out as the fourth outfielder.

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