Every day in spring training until we finish the entire league, Big League Stew takes a brief capsule look at each team we visit in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues. Next stop is Jupiter (the town in Florida, not the planet) where the Albert Pujols(notes) countdown continues. For how long will the Cardinals have him?
2010 RECORD: 86-76, 2nd in NL Central
BIGGEST ACQUISITION: Lance Berkman(notes) would be a good bet for a strong rebound season if he played in the AL as a DH or anywhere in the majors at first base. But the Cardinals are counting on him to play right field. He's going to get beat up out there.
FIVE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CARDINALS
1. Will Albert Pujols play in St. Lou all season? Take this answer, go down to your local bank and make a deposit: He ain't goin' no place. Even if the Cardinals continue their recent ugly trends and aren't contending for the playoffs at the trade deadline, indications are they will vie for Pujols until he signs with another team. Given the rumors about how far apart the two sides were in negotiations before camp opened, there's reason for Cardinals fans to worry about 2012 and beyond. But he's staying for now, especially since Pujols has said he'll veto any trade proposal.
Chris Carpenter(notes) (right) is still an ace, so they have that going. It has become critical that lefty Jaime Garcia(notes) repeat, even improve upon, his rookie season. It's also a good thing they brought back Jake Westbrook(notes) after trading Ryan Ludwick(notes) for him. Kyle Lohse(notes) is coming off a terrible season, and isn't much of a sure thing as a No. 4. ... At Dave Duncan's behest, Kyle McClellan(notes) enlisted to join the starting rotation and was accepted. The St. Louis-area native has been very good as a set-up man over 202 career appearances in the majors, and finished with a 2.27 ERA and solid K/BB ratio in 2010. He started 51 games in the low minors, with mixed success, until he had Tommy John surgery and came back as a relief pitcher four years ago. He's been solid in camp. ... Hard-throwing Jason Motte(notes) moves into McClellan's role as primary set-up man and Mitchell Boggs(notes) will be counted on as well. Motte has had up-and-down performances, and Boggs' back has been bothering him.
3. Does it matter if outfielder Colby Rasmus(notes) and manager Tony La Russa don't get along? No and yes. Despite that trade request, La Russa swears the reports of their relationship being poor were off base, or at least overstated. Rasmus — though he broke through at 23 and had the best season of any Cardinals player after Pujols and Matt Holliday(notes) — doesn't necessarily play with his heart on his sleeve. Both he and La Russa seem stubborn, and they even seem to speak a different language sometimes. But if Rasmus always gives his best and smartest effort, there should be no problem. Right?
4. How long can Lance Berkman last in right field? Berkman has a great bat — though he didn't hit well in 2010 — but this is the National League and Albert Pujols is kind of locked into first base. They're taking a foolish risk that Berkman can stay healthy while managing the rigors of right field.
5. Will David Freese(notes) and Ryan Theriot(notes) make for a solid left side of the infield? Freese started great as a rookie — his OPS was .846 on May 31 — but an injury to his ankle ended his season in June. He has been coming along well in camp, though rookie Matt Carpenter has been outplaying most everyone else on the team. ... Theriot said he knows he needs to perform better after a way below-average season at bat and in the field (mostly at second base) in 2010. Some of his problems, he said, were due to being traded and changing positions. As recently as 2009, he was a plus fielder (in terms of range) at short, a position he is excited about returning to.