Running down the rosters: St. Louis Cardinals

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The World Series champion Cardinals will go it without Albert Pujols, but the additions of Adam Wainwright (back from Tommy John surgery) and Carlos Beltran should sufficiently make up for that. On paper this year’s team looks just as good as the one that won it all. Of course, last year’s winners wouldn’t have sniffed the postseason playing in any division besides the NL Central, so there is room for improvement.

Rotation
Adam Wainwright – R
Chris Carpenter – R
Jaime Garcia – L
Kyle Lohse – R
Jake Westbrook – R

Bullpen
Jason Motte – R
Fernando Salas – R
Mark Rzepczynski – L
Kyle McClellan – R
Mitchell Boggs – R
J.C. Romero – L
Eduardo Sanchez – R

SP next in line: Lance Lynn (R), McClellan, Shelby Miller (R), Brandon Dickson (R)
RP next in line: Scott Linebrink (R), Lynn, Jess Todd (R), Maikel Cleto (R), Adam Reifer (R), Samuel Freeman (L)

I didn’t leave a spot for Lynn here, even though I project him as the Cardinals’ fourth best starter. He’s quite a luxury for the team at the moment. The Cardinals could try to dump Westbrook’s salary and slide him into the rotation or move McClellan and use him as a long man. The best option, though, is probably to stand pat and see what happens this spring. I doubt Carpenter and Garcia are going to combine to make 66 starts again. The Cards are sure to need at least six starters, and as great as Miller will be someday, they’re not going to want to have to call on him in the first half.

The bullpen should be strong, even if neither Motte nor Salas can quite duplicate their 2.2x ERAs from last season. The closer’s gig is Motte’s to lose after a fine postseason that included five saves.

Lineup
SS Rafael Furcal – S
RF Carlos Beltran – S
LF Matt Holliday – R
1B Lance Berkman – S
3B David Freese – R
CF Jon Jay – L
C Yadier Molina – R
2B Daniel Descalso – L

Bench
C Tony Cruz – R
INF Tyler Greene – R
INF Alex Cora – L
2B/OF Skip Schumaker – L
OF Shane Robinson – R

Disabled list: Allen Craig (R)
Next in line: C Bryan Anderson (L), C Koyie Hill (S), 1B/OF Mark Hamilton (L), 1B Matt Adams (L), 3B Matt Carpenter (L), INF Pete Kozma (R), INF-OF Eugenio Velez (S), OF Adron Chambers (L), OF Erik Komatsu (L)(Rule 5)

The offense doesn’t lack for big names even with Pujols gone, but I do have my concerns. Berkman and Molina are due for at least mild declines, and Berkman, Furcal, Beltran and Freese all rank among the biggest injury risks at their positions. Given those issues, one would think the Cardinals would have invested more in their bench this winter.

Of course, the bench situation would look a lot better if Craig makes a quick return from knee surgery. He’s the team’s third best outfielder, and he’ll be great insurance for Beltran and Berkman if healthy.

As is, the bench spots are largely up for grabs, with only Schumaker completely assured of his place (though Greene is probably safe). Cruz will battle Anderson to become Molina’s backup, with Hill possibly sneaking in if neither youngster impresses. Cora, Hamilton and Carpenter are the candidates for the sixth infield spot. Robinson, Chambers and Komatsu will compete for one gig in the outfield. I don’t have much faith in anyone from that group, but that’ll be Craig’s spot eventually.

My guess is that the Cardinals start strong, but that injuries take a toll as the year goes on. There may be enough pitching depth to get them back to 90 wins anyway, but the NL Central crown could come down to whether Furcal, Beltran and others are close to 100 percent come September.

Yasiel Puig’s one-game suspension has been rescinded

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MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports that Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig‘s one-game suspension has been rescinded. Instead, he will make a charitable donation. The alternative “punishment” was agreed to by Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association.

Puig was suspended one game two weeks ago after flipping off some hecklers at Progressive Field in Cleveland. Puig showed remorse after the game, saying, “I stooped to their level.”

Entering Tuesday night’s action, Puig was batting .251/.331/.458 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI in 287 plate appearances.

Video: Adrian Beltre hits his 450th career home run

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Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre picked a good time to hit his 450th home run. With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the ninth inning, Beltre took the first pitch he saw from closer Cody Allen for a ride, sending it into the left field seats at Progressive Field to break the tie.

The Rangers would go on to win 2-1. Beltre finished 2-for-4. He now has 2,969 career hits, leaving him 31 shy of becoming the 31st member of the 3,000 hit club.

On the season, Beltre is hitting .303/.373/.562 with five home run sand 22 RBI in 102 plate appearances.