Mailbag: How mighty is 'pen?

Mailbag: How mighty is Cards 'pen?

With a week of games under our belts and the first cuts made, Spring Training is starting to take shape. It's still hard to tell exactly what the roster will look like, but competitions are forming and we have some games to base things on -- rather than just workouts.

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 a string of country songs playing over the PA, and a truly spectacular sunny day unfolding at Roger Dean Stadium, let's get on with the questions.

I believe the bullpen is the Cardinals' biggest question starting this season. With Jason Isringhausen's physical issues and the need for starting pitching, the bullpen seems to be a problem area. Are the Cardinals willing to sacrifice starting pitching to plug the bullpen shortcomings? Have they planed for Isringhausen's absence? What is plan "B"?
-- Michael T., Vancouver, BC

Actually, if they make a move, it's likely to be the opposite. Isringhausen remains a question until he pitches in games, it's true. But beyond him, the bullpen is extremely deep. They have more pitchers than spots, with six right-handers (Isringhausen, Josh Kinney, Russ Springer, Josh Hancock, Ryan Franklin, Brad Thompson) and three lefties (Tyler Johnson, Ricardo Rincon, Randy Flores) for seven jobs. That doesn't even count dark-horse candidates like Brian Falkenborg, Chris Narveson and Troy Cate.

So if there's a move, it won't be trading a starter for a reliever. Instead, it will more likely be trading a reliever or two or three for a starter. This is a solid and deep group, even with the ninth-inning question.

As for the second part of your question, the ninth inning remains a question if Isringhausen is unavailable. Among the names who would likely be considered are Kinney, Flores, Johnson and possibly Springer.

Do you have a schedule of the Cards' spring games that will be on the radio?
-- Jim L., St. Louis

Every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday game is on KTRS, the Cardinals Radio Network and therefore also Gameday Audio.

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We are going down to Florida this year for Spring Training. We have already purchased tickets for several games. Can you lay out when the best times are to arrive each day to catch the practices and other can't-miss opportunities for fans to see things outside of the actual games?
-- Brooks G., St. Louis

The Cardinals begin their morning work at about 9:30 a.m. ET for home games. Much of their activity is done inside Roger Dean Stadium, which doesn't open until two hours before game time. However, after the stretch, some players go out to the back fields to work out. Fans can go out there and get very close to the action.

Additionally, the Minor Leaguers will begin playing games in mid-March. That's a fun experience and you can get very close. The games typically start at noon ET, so you can go catch an inning or three before the Major League game starts.

What are the chances of Brad Thompson being in the rotation? Personally, I like him more than Braden Looper in a starting role.
-- Justin H., Memphis

The chances got better on Sunday, when Thompson steamrolled through three perfect innings on 25 pitches, getting six ground balls. But it's still a fairly long shot. He'll have to clearly beat out one of the other candidates, whether it be Looper or Anthony Reyes. You can't rule it out, but it's an uphill climb.

With so many outfield choices, why did the Cardinals re-sign Preston Wilson? I know he has great power when he connects, but the guy strikes out a lot. He can't be counted on in pinch-hitting when the game is on the line. He has proved that over and over. I don't like to question Cardinals management, but what were they thinking?
-- Todd F., Omaha, Neb.

They wanted a potential power bat who can play center field at times, if needed. And they wanted someone who batted right-handed. Wilson's strengths and weaknesses are pretty well known -- he does strike out, and he doesn't walk much, but his power is significant. Wilson is also regarded as an excellent clubhouse presence, someone who helps keep people loose.

I read in the newspaper that the Royals are thinking about trading Reggie Sanders. Do you think that we could trade one or two of our excess relievers to try and get him back?
-- Brandon T., Willard, Mo.

Speaking of guys who keep the clubhouse loose ...

It's unlikely that they would look to deal for Sanders, if only because of what we just discussed above. Sanders would be a fairly redundant player for a team that already has Wilson. He's a right-handed hitter who's best at a corner outfield spot, can hit the ball out of the park, strikes out a good bit and doesn't walk much.

Sanders looks like he's out of a starting job in Kansas City, but don't look for his next destination to be a St. Louis return.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.