Cards' bullpen picture remains unclear

Cards' bullpen picture remains unclear

Cards' bullpen picture remains unclear
JUPITER, Fla. -- With Lance Lynn set to be in the rotation indefinitely now that Chris Carpenter has been diagnosed with nerve inflammation in his right shoulder, the club will have one additional bullpen opening to fill by the end of Spring Training. That means that of the nine relievers remaining in big league camp, seven are expected to begin the year in St. Louis.

Jason Motte has already been designated the closer. Marc Rzepczynski and J.C. Romero will serve as the club's two lefty relievers. Kyle McClellan, who will make $2.5 million in 2012, could slide into a long relief role, assuming he is with the team at the start of the season. For months his name has been floated as a potential trade candidate.

Four relievers on the 40-man roster -- Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez and Victor Marte -- remain in the mix. So, too, does non-roster veteran right-hander Scott Linebrink, who has not allowed a run in 7 2/3 spring innings.

"Strong competition is always good in Major League camp because it brings the best in your players," pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said. "It keeps their radar up. It's healthy competition. We'll see who rises to the top."

The Cardinals have an opening on the 40-man roster, so it would be no issue adding Linebrink before season's start. He seems likely to take that spot, too, given the experience he brings and the fact that he could otherwise ask to be released if he is not placed on the Opening Day roster.

Manager Mike Matheny has praised Boggs all spring, though the 28-year-old righty has had a few hiccups during games. Salas' spring hasn't been entirely clean, either, though he did have his routine interrupted by a trip home for the birth of his son. Sanchez has tossed eight scoreless innings. Marte, who could again be plugged in as the closer in Triple-A Memphis, has allowed one run in six innings.

The Cardinals are expected to make another round of cuts early next week, and one of these relievers could be among that group sent to Minor League camp. The club has not entirely ruled out beginning the year with eight pitchers in the 'pen, but that is still viewed as an unlikely scenario.