Spring Training is in full swing, and hopefully many of you will be able to make it down here to Florida before camp is out. For this week's mailbag, we're going to have another lightning-round version, with as many questions as I can answer briefly before running out of steam.
As always, if you have a question, use the link below to submit it -- and please be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you send a regular e-mail, rather than using the form, be certain to use the word "mailbag" in the subject header -- otherwise your mail may be directed to the spam folder, or otherwise ignored in an unbecoming manner.
With some green tea at my side, old Metallica playing on my iPod and a cool breeze blowing in the media workroom from outside, let's get going.
I know I am from Indianapolis, but I am a huge fan. I just wanted to know how you think the World Baseball Classic will affect the Cardinals. Do you think having them play will help us, or will it hurt us not having them for some of Spring Training?
-- Jackson C., Indianapolis
First, a disclaimer: I'm really excited about the tournament, just because I think it's going to be some very compelling baseball. And I just don't see it affecting the Cardinals that much. I understand manager Tony La Russa's concerns about Yadier Molina being away from the pitching staff, but he'll figure out the guys pretty quickly -- he did as a rookie in '04. Guys could get injured, but they could just as easily get injured in Port St. Lucie or Fort Lauderdale as they could in the tournament.
I enjoy reading the mailbag each week. You always have great answers to questions. I just wanted to know why pitchers and catchers report earlier to camp than the position players?
-- Jessica B., Springfield, Mo.
Basically, because pitchers need more time to get ready than hitters -- and pitchers can't do much without catchers around. La Russa has said before that Spring Training might be two weeks too long for position players, and two weeks too short for pitchers.
Do you think it is likely that by the trade deadline, the Cardinals will have made a trade for an impact position player? If so, what position do you think he would play?
-- Sam R., St. Louis
Two words: left field. I predict that, assuming this team makes the playoffs, the Game 1 starting left fielder will be someone not currently in the organization. I just think the Cardinals could really use one more impact bat, and that would be the position where it would happen.
Supposing that Scott Rolen is healthy in 2006, I imagine that he would be the Cards' fourth hitter, but will Jim Edmonds still bat fifth, or will he totally switch to second?
-- Brett M., Potomac, Md.
My guess is that Edmonds will not bat second, though as I recently wrote in this space, I think he is the best choice. I expect that Edmonds will hit cleanup against right-handed pitchers with Rolen fifth, and Rolen will be the No. 4 man against lefties with Edmonds fifth.
In your comments on our starting left fielder, you put no stock in John Rodriguez. I think he could earn the job before So Taguchi can. What is your opinion on Rodriguez?
I'm higher on Rodriguez than I think a lot of people are, because I think he has the possibility to be an impact hitter. But I expect he will get the fewest at-bats of the three main left-field candidates, because of the defensive and baserunning advantages that Taguchi and Larry Bigbie have.
Why are you so high on Junior Spivey? I live in Washington, DC, and watched him in the second half of the year, and he couldn't even crack the Nationals' starting lineup. I know the Cards have been able to rescue second basemen no one else has wanted the past couple years, but why do you think they've done it a third time in a row?
-- Kevin M., Washington
Because I chalk up last year to health issues. I've been told that Spivey never really made it all the way back from his shoulder injury, and that it affected his play throughout 2005. If he's healthy, I expect a high-quality player. If not, then I think there's a real concern at second base.
Have a question about the Cardinals?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Cardinals beat reporter Jenifer Langosch for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
Is Scott Spiezio the son of former Cardinals farm player Ed Spiezio? Ed was a great player for the old Tulsa Oilers in the mid-1960's.
-- Hugh K., Stillwater, Okla.
You're actually selling Ed Spiezio short. Not only did he play in Tulsa, but he was a Cardinal for parts of five seasons and got 1,544 at-bats in the big leagues. He even appeared in the 1967 and 1968 World Series for the Cards. And, yes, Ed is Scott's dad.
I am high on Anthony Reyes as a starter. If he doesn't crack the top five in the rotation, would it be better for him to go to Memphis and continue to work as a starter for next year or in case he is needed to fill in at some point this year? I don't think using him in the bullpen is the best way to prepare him as a top-of-the-rotation guy. Is there a precedent of good starters who spent their first year as a reliever?
-- Jason D., St. Louis
Absolutely -- lots of starters got their start that way. A few guys who come immediately to mind are Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana and Roy Halladay, all of whom have of course won Cy Young Awards. Earl Weaver was a big advocate of breaking in young pitchers by having them pitch long relief, and Weaver on Strategy is basically a baseball bible to me. I think if Sidney Ponson pitches well enough to make the rotation, the best place for Reyes is long relief.
This Michel Hernandez kid -- never heard of him. Could you please fill me in on whom this guy is?
-- Hayden T., Ozark, Ark.
Hernandez is 27 and a native of Cuba. He's been playing in the United States since 1998, mostly in the Yankees system. Hernandez is a right-handed hitter who at times has put up nice numbers in the Minor Leagues. Last year at Triple-A Portland (in the Padres system), he batted .288 with a .368 on-base percentage. In 2003, at Columbus (the Yankees' Triple-A team), he had a .367 OBP.
I keep hearing people say there is no backup to Albert Pujols at first base, but that was John Gall's primary position before switching to the outfield. Gall did decent last year when he was called up, but no one seems to be giving him much of a shot. What is the story?
-- David H., Indianapolis
It's great to hear from Indy twice this week -- hometown of my beautiful bride (hi, Erin!) and where her family still resides.
I think Gall is in a tough spot because of the way the bench shakes out. If the Cardinals carry 12 pitchers, that leaves five bench spots. One will go to Gary Bennett, and one to a middle infielder -- I'd guess Deivi Cruz. Two more will be the outfielders who don't start, which I'm guessing means Larry Bigbie and John Rodriguez. That basically leaves one more spot, and I think it will go to Scott Spiezio, because of his versatility.
If they go with 11 pitchers, that opens up another spot -- and greatly increases the chances of guys like Gall, Chris Duncan and maybe even Rick Ankiel, Brian Daubach and Skip Schumaker.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.