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Cards could have unexpected 'pen opening for opener

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals' plan to carry two left-handed relievers - Randy Choate and Marc Rzepczynski - in the Opening Day bullpen is now in flux after Rzepczynski suffered a left eye injury while golfing on Friday.

The club does not yet know how long the injury will keep Rzepczynski off the field, though he won't return to the team's spring complex until at least Monday. Having already missed a week due to left biceps tightness, Rzepczynski is in jeopardy of not having sufficient time to prepare for the start of the regular season.

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If Rzepczynski is not ready by April 1, that would give the Cardinals an unanticipated bullpen opening. It's not a certainty, either, that the hole would be filled by a left-hander.

"I've never been that guy who says we have to have so many left-handers or right-handers in our bullpen," manager Mike Matheny. "We just need guys who can get people out."

The Cardinals are short on other lefty relief candidates. Sam Freeman, who made his Major League debut last season, has not pitched since Feb. 24 because of shoulder inflammation. He is not expected to return to the mound soon.

The other left-handed pitchers in camp -- Kevin Siegrist, Tyler Lyons, Barret Browning and John Gast -- were all projected to begin the year in the Minors. Of those four, only Siegrist is on the team's 40-man roster.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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