In fact, few players in camp have as many possible destinations for the end of March as Ryan. He could start the season as the everyday shortstop in Triple-A Memphis. He could be the Cardinals utility player, sharing time in the middle infield with Aaron Miles. He could play his way into a platoon at second base. Or, and the chance is slim but La Russa did leave an opening there, he could elbow others aside and be the starter at either middle infield positions.Another big question is: Where will Colby Rasmus start the season at? Yours truly wants him to start in center field for the St. Louis Cardinals every day. Here's what Goold thinks:
Rasmus, the club's top prospect, is hitting .231, lagging behind the other outfielders vying for big-league jobs. But the real indicators of his spring are his .538 slugging percentage (fifth on the team) and .412 on-base percentage (third best among leadoff candidates).The large issue, apparently, is not the numbers he is putting up but the status of free agency.
When he lands on the major-league roster, Rasmus' service-time clock starts, and after it reaches six seasons Rasmus is eligible for free agency. If he spends just part of 2008 in the minors, he wouldn't be a free agent until after 2014, at least.What does Tony think of this? Let's ask.
"First and foremost, what is to be evaluated is where he is as a player," general manager John Mozeliak said.
The Cardinals expect Rasmus to be in the majors at some point this season, and they accept that Rasmus could be arbitration-eligible after 2010. The larger issue is the date he hits free agency.
He plays a lot at the major-league level," La Russa said of using Rasmus if he's on the team. "Or, he plays a lot at Triple-A."John Sickels at Minor League Ball seems to think that Colby Rasmus will be the better all-around player than Jay Bruce.
La Russa has thought well enough of Rasmus' spring so far that he started the prospect in center field and hit him No. 3 on Tuesday. He showed why his batting average is deceptive. Rasmus walked in two of his first three plate appearances, got an infield single in his fourth, and he stole two bases.
What's that, Mr. Smoltz?
No less an expert than Atlanta's John Smoltz, a charter member of Adam Wainwright's fan club, first thought it was "a big mistake" for the young pitcher to leave the bullpen after his star turn in the 2006 postseason.[...]
"If I was the same pitcher he knew (when both were Braves), I would have struggled and been out of the rotation within a month," the righthander said. "A pitcher is supposed to be a lion on the mound, not a lamb. I used to be a lamb."[...]
"If he can do what he did last year and the year before, then he's mentally tougher than the people who doubted him," said Smoltz, who befriended Wainwright when the kid was Atlanta's first-round pick. "I'm going to be the first one to say I thought they were making a big mistake taking him out of that (relief) role. … I was saying, 'Oh, no.' And it worked."
Acquired from the Braves in 2003, Wainwright has had no hesitation hurling himself into the role now dealt him — stand-in ace while Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder mend. He's become the team's union representative, he volunteered to ham it up in a commercial for tickets, and he muted any frustration when the organization renewed him at $448,000 for the coming year. (He was seeking closer to $525,000.)[...]
Wainwright led the team with 202 innings in 32 starts. His 2.71 ERA after the All-Star break was the fourth-lowest in baseball. Ten of his final 16 starts went at least seven innings, and he allowed fewer than three runs in all 10.
"The kid surprised the heck out of me," Smoltz said. "I have to be careful how I say this, but it was one of the more regrettable trades we've ever done because the guy we got (J.D. Drew) was here only one year. … I'm happy for (Wainwright). All of sudden, he's pushed to the front of the line."