Tuesday's off-day marks a milestone in Spring Training for the Cardinals staff. Starting Wednesday, they'll begin playing the games much more like regular-season games, so what you see on the field from here on out is a decent indication of what you'll see in April. That makes some questions a little easier to answer, so let's get to it.
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 e-mail may be directed to the spam folder or possibly be ignored in an unbecoming manner. Also, please understand that literally hundreds of e-mails arrive every week, so they can't all be used in the mailbag or receive personal responses.
I am a Brian Barton backer and feel that he needs to remain in the organization. I know that he has to make the 25-man roster or else be sent back to Cleveland, barring a trade. Do you think the Cardinals could obtain the rights to Barton, and if so, who would they give up? -- John E., Effingham, Ill.
Many Cardinals fans still seem to be very worried about losing Barton, even after Monday's cuts. However, with only six outfielders remaining in camp, and Juan Gonzalez unable to compete for a spot due to injury, Barton pretty much has it sewn up. Something shocking will have to happen for him not to be on the Opening Day roster.
And that's good for the Cardinals, not only because Barton is an extremely interesting player, but because Barton's spring would have made it very difficult to work out a trade with Cleveland. His stock has climbed not only with the Cardinals, but with anyone who has been watching.
Thanks for answering my first question about Gonzalez's chances of making the roster. So what will happen if he doesn't make it? Minor Leagues? -- Raul R., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
That's one of the big questions right now. The Cardinals have said all along that Gonzalez said he would accept an assignment to Memphis. However, when Gonzalez was asked that very question by reporters recently, he didn't really answer it.
There's a decent chance that if and when it's officially determined that Gonzalez will not make the team, he could be granted his release to try to sign on with another team. The Cardinals will have no shortage of players to get at-bats in the Minors, so it might be best for everyone.
What do you think of Kyle McClellan's chances of making the big club this year? -- Keith W., Poplar Bluff, Mo.
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They're a lot better than they were 24 hours ago. McClellan is now one of four pitchers battling for the final right-handed spot in the bullpen, it would appear. Also in the derby are Cliff Politte, Kelvin Jimenez and Chris Perez -- and McClellan and Jimenez may have a leg up because both are on the 40-man roster.
If Anthony Reyes does not win the final starting job, however, it would open up another spot in the bullpen. As it stands now, Reyes looks likely to open as the fifth starter, and Brad Thompson would go to the bullpen. If Thompson wins the job, Reyes would probably not be in the bullpen, and one more spot would become available in the relief corps.
What happened to Mark McCormick? I remember he was one of their first-round Draft picks maybe two years ago out of Baylor, and he threw in the 100-mph range? -- Matthew W., Knoxville, Ill.
McCormick has been one of the great stories of this spring. He's finally healthy after battling arm troubles, and he's throwing well. McCormick pitched for Double-A Springfield last Thursday. He was a "sandwich pick" -- in the supplemental round between the first and second -- in 2005.
I had a chance to see a game with the Marlins in Jupiter and was wowed by Joe Mather's hitting. He appears to have all the tools offensively, but I am curious to know how (or where) the ballclub projects him into the future. Your thoughts, please. -- Randall L., Corinth, Tex.
Mather, like McClellan, was one of the players who helped himself the most this spring. He already had some ardent backers in the front office, but his performance in Grapefruit League games definitely reinforced that. He'll probably play a corner outfield spot in Memphis this year, and I'd have to think he'd be the first guy to get a callup if they needed someone for a short time.
Whatever happened to Eduardo Perez? -- Daniel P., Troy, Mo.
One of my favorite guys I ever covered, Perez has been busy since hanging up the spikes. The Florida State product (and, of course, son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez) last played in the big leagues in 2006, then last year got into television. He did some work on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, but spent the winter on a bigger project.
Perez started the Winter Training Program in Puerto Rico this past winter, hoping to fill a void after the Puerto Rican winter league ceased operations. It's a terrific project, and he deserves a lot of credit for his efforts. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez wrote a very nice piece on the program back in November.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.