JUPITER, Fla. -- Officially, a competition remains for both of the final two spots in the Cardinals' starting rotation. For all practical purposes, however, it's down to a two-man battle for one spot.
Todd Wellemeyer has emerged as a heavy favorite for the fourth position in the rotation, following Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper and Kyle Lohse. Anthony Reyes and Brad Thompson continue to duel for the fifth position.
Wellemeyer turned in a respectable outing on Sunday against the Braves, allowing three runs on four hits over five innings. He struck out three and walked one, leaving him with a strikeout-to-walk ratio that's still less than one-to-one, but Wellemeyer has pleased the team's staff.
Asked whether Wellemeyer would have to fall apart in order not to win a start, pitching coach Dave Duncan simply said that Wellemeyer is "earning his way." Duncan stopped short of naming Wellemeyer to his rotation, but he made it clear that the righty has an edge on his competitors.
"I'm not the only one who makes the decision," Duncan said on Sunday. "But for me, I like what I see with Wellemeyer."
Even if Duncan isn't the only one, though, his weight carries as much as any, when it comes to pitching decisions. And Wellemeyer has other backers, as well. Another club official listed Wellemeyer in the season-opening rotation on Sunday, with the caveat that plenty can happen in two weeks.
Reyes and Thompson will each have at least one more chance to impress, if nothing else. Reyes will start Monday against Atlanta, and Thompson is slated to take the mound on Wednesday against the Orioles.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.