Cardinals fans – are you itching for some live game action with actual consequences on the line involving your Redbirds? Sure, Spring Training is great. We will all get to see how the major storylines in camp shake out as the roster finalizes itself with regards to the bench spots, the 5th rotation spot, and the battle for Second Base. However, unless a rookie comes out of nowhere to force Mr. Mozeliak and Company to include him on the 25 man roster, this spring will be fairly devoid of any truly major intrigue. So, we are forced to turn elsewhere to get true consequences filled action, and thankfully in this relatively quiet spring there is an upcoming World Tournament to satiate those needs.
We, as fans, are only 2 weeks out from the first pitch in the World Baseball Classic. Four players from the main roster and one minor league pitcher will all make appearances representing both their home countries, as well as the Birds on The Bat. Those players are Mitchell Boggs, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Fernando Salas, and Richard Castillo. Let’s take a quick look at what drew the world managers to decide these players would be beneficial to their respective rosters for this tournament.
Mitchell Boggs was selected by Joe Torre to represent the USA baseball club based off a strong 2012 campaign in which he finished 3rd in the Holds category in the entire Major Leagues behind Joel Peralta (37) and Vinnie Pestano (36) while leading the National League with 34. Boggs finished the season 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA in 73.1 innings pitched. He also recorded 58 strikeouts against 21 walks while hitting 4 batters. Rock solid would be the only way to describe Mitchell’s 2012 campaign, and the selection to represent Team USA further cements the way he is viewed in the league.
Carlos Beltran and Yadi Molina have represented Puerto Rico in every World Baseball Classic to date so their inclusion on the Puerto Rican roster was most likely a foregone conclusion so long as neither was dealing with a major injury. It goes without saying that these guys are solid additions to the Puerto Rico roster. Beltran is coming off a year where he slugged 32 HR, drove in 97 runs, and scored 83 runs. He also stole 16 bases for good measure. In 2012, all Molina did was further make his case as the Greatest Cardinals Catcher of all time by winning his 5th consecutive Gold Glove Award, finishing 4th in National League Most Valuable Player Voting, and appearing in his 4th consecutive All Star game. Long revered for his defensive wizardry behind the dish, Yadi’s offensive numbers are now starting to catch up with his defense. Last season he posted a .315 batting average, which was good for 4th best in the National League, as well as 22 HR, 76 RBI, and even managed to swipe 12 bases even though his speed is clearly not one of his better attributes.
Initially, Team Mexico sought the services of Jaime Garcia, but the Cardinals #2 starting pitcher is trying to get past last seasons injury issues and will not participate for his home country during this years tournament. Instead, Team Mexico has enlisted the services of relief pitcher Fernando Salas. Salas is coming off a down year in which he struggled with his mechanics for a while, but still managed to make some valuable contributions for the Redbirds. During Salas’ mechanically hampered 2012, he posted a 1-4 record with a 4.30 ERA in 58.2 innings pitched. He also managed to strikeout 60 of the 256 batters he faced.
The final Cardinal was taken by Team Spain and is not a St. Louis Cardinal, but rather a AA Springfield Cardinal, Richard Castillo. The 5’11”, 23 year old right-hander has spent the past 4 seasons in the lower levels of the Cardinals rich farm system trying to gain footing and impress his way into a promotion. Last season in 19 starts at Springfield, Castillo posted a 7-5 record, with a 3.76 ERA, and 65 strikeouts against 32 walks while also hitting 12 batters. With the young, league lauded pitching depth in the St. Louis farm system, Castillo is going to have a hard time making an impact at the major league level for the Cardinals. It’s my hope that he is viewing this appearance in the WBC as a chance to showcase his talent not just to the Cardinals, but also the entire league, and he will put yet another positive face on the Cardinals farm system while possibly increasing his value as a potential future trade piece.
Opinions abound about the WBC in general, but personally, I am happy that this tournament exists for all the hard core baseball fans out there, and I am even more happy that all of the games will be televised on the MLB Network. Consequences filled baseball involving St. Louis Cardinals players is nearly here, and it’s long overdue.