Cruz in line to reclaim backup catching duties

JUPITER, Fla. -- Technically, the Cardinals still have to select a backup catcher. That's why Tony Cruz, who held the role in 2012, has been told to carry himself as if he is trying to earn a spot back on the Cardinals' 25-man roster.

However, not all candidates enter equally into that competition -- if it can even be referred to as such.

Though the Cardinals signed a pair of catchers -- J.R. Towles and Rob Johnson -- to Minor League deals over the winter, the intention wasn't so much to create competition for Cruz as it was to replenish depth. Those signings came as the Cardinals parted ways with Bryan Anderson and Steven Hill, who combined to cover most of the innings behind the plate in Triple-A Memphis last year.

Desiring to be up front with both Towles and Johnson about their chances to make the Major League club out of Spring Training, manager Mike Matheny has already pulled each aside to more clearly spell out the situation.

"[I told them] that Tony did a great job for us last year," Matheny said. "I don't want to have them under the misconception in that this is a wide-open spot because Tony did everything asked of him last year."

Though he started only 28 games behind the plate, Cruz was praised for the rapport he developed with the pitching staff. He's also had the extended opportunity to learn from Yadier Molina, considered to be one of baseball's best backstops. As a result, Cruz has positioned himself to remain in that post.

"I never say anybody has anything wrapped up. These guys get better when they compete," Matheny said. "But we didn't just have a blind eye to what [Cruz] did last year. He did a great job."