Inbox: Analyzing roster, backup plan for Pujols

Inbox: Analyzing roster, backup plan for Pujols

Welcome to the first Cardinals Inbox of the offseason. 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 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 Inbox or receive personal responses.

With the iPod on shuffle, let's get on with the questions. It's been a while since we did a lightning-round inbox, so that's going to be the style of this one. More questions, shorter answers. Hope you enjoy.

If Albert Pujols doesn't sign, will Lance Berkman move to first base and Allen Craig move to right field? Also, would Skip Schumaker play a little more outfield during the season?
-- Giancarlo S., New Orleans

That's basically the plan. Everything's subject to change until the club gets to Jupiter, Fla., of course, but as of now, the backup plan is Berkman at first and Craig in right. And, yes, I think it's accurate to say that regardless of what happens with Pujols, if Schumaker is back, he will play more outfield and less second base next year.

Is Mike Matheny's contract substantially less than Tony La Russa's was? And if so, would this give the Cardinals more leeway to increase their offer to Pujols?
-- Terry P., St. Louis

Yes it is -- somewhere roughly in the neighborhood of $3 million per year less, though the club doesn't release those figures. But it really won't make a big difference. They're going to offer what they're willing to pay. The club is more likely to get creative to make other things work around a Pujols deal, rather than the other way around.

With the injuries that Matt Holliday suffered last season to his hand, are there any surgeries scheduled or special rehabs?
-- Rebecca M., Jefferson City, Mo.

It is my understanding that he should be fully recovered and ready to go without surgery.

With Zack Cox rising rapidly in the organization, where is his future? Third base seems well set. Can he be groomed for second base?
-- Ed S., Keithville, La.

For now, the plan remains to leave Cox at third base. He's not expected to arrive in the Majors imminently, so he'll stay there until necessity requires otherwise.

The role of bench coach seems to be a higher-profile coaching position. I can figure out what most of the other coaches do, but really don't know the main responsibilities of the bench coach. What does he do?
-- George R., Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada

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There are a few things, but one of the main ones is to serve as the manager's sounding board during a game, sort of like an assistant manager. In the Cardinals' case, bench coach Joe Pettini also made out the various programs under La Russa -- the batting practice schedule, Spring Training daily schedules, etc.

With the recent 40-man roster adds, there are four spots left for the Cards to add players. Quick question and then a longer one: Do you find the Adam Ottavino add a curious one? I mean is there much call for a mid-20s guy who did not handle his only Major League stint all that well? Also, with them all being pitchers, I can see the Cards adding 3 bats and 1 pitcher through free agency now. Do you agree, and do you think they will be middle infielders like Skip Schumaker or Ryan Theriot or Rafael Furcal?
-- Brad R., Womelsdorf, Pa.

Regarding Ottavino: the answer is that the club views him as having some real upside as a reliever, and that's how he's likely to work in Spring Training. Regarding the second question: I don't think it's that set in stone at all. They'll add what they can, where it makes sense, from a shopping list that includes the middle infield, left-handed relief, a right-handed-hitting center fielder and perhaps right-handed relief and bench help.

With some of the roster moves still pending, one obvious seems to be that the backup catcher will come from within. Do you see the Cards keeping three on the active roster, knowing Tony Cruz can possibly play multiple positions and could be a decent pinch-hitter late in the game?
-- Dan H., Avon, Ohio

I'd be surprised, but I wouldn't rule it out entirely. Cruz's versatility does help his case to be on the roster, but in the current era where clubs nearly always carry 12 pitchers, having three catchers is all but impossible.

What is the status of Eduardo Sanchez and his shoulder? I was puzzled that after his successful return against Houston, he was left off the postseason rosters. Is he OK, or is surgery ahead?
-- Scott D., Milan, Mich.

Sanchez should be just fine. It wasn't that he was unhealthy after his appearance in September. It was just that the club felt it would be a push to ask Sanchez to pitch on consecutive days at that point in his rehab.

Do any of the Cardinals that were traded get World Series rings (or anyone that may have moved up or down during the season that were not up in October)? Thanks.
-- Bradley K., O'Fallon, Mo.

Pretty much everybody who played for the 2011 Cardinals will get a ring.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.