The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 30, 2013

Reds expected to repeat in NL Central

(Continued)

PITTSBURGH — St. Louis Cardinals

2012: 88-74, second place, wild card (lost to San Francisco in NLCS).

Manager: Mike Matheny (second season).

He’s here: LHP Randy Choate, INF Ty Wigginton, C Rob Johnson.

He’s outta here: RHP Kyle Lohse, 1B Lance Berkman, 2B-OF Skip Schumaker, RHP Kyle McClellan, LHP Brian Fuentes.

Projected lineup: CF Jon Jay (.305, 4 HRs, 40 RBI, 19 SBs, .373 OBP), 3B Matt Carpenter (.294, 6, 46 in 296 at-bats), LF Matt Holliday (.295, 27, 102, 95 runs), 1B Allen Craig (.307, 22, 92 in 119 games), RF Carlos Beltran (.269, 32, 97, 13 SBs), C Yadier Molina (.315, 22, 76, 12 SBs), 2B Daniel Descalso (.227, 4, 26), SS Pete Kozma (.333, 2, 14 in 26 games).

Rotation: RH Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA, 184 Ks, 198 2-3 IP), LH Jaime Garcia (7-7, 3.92 in 20 starts), RH Jake Westbrook (13-11, 3.97), RH Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78), RH Joe Kelly (5-7, 3.53 in 16 starts).

Hot spots: Kozma had the inside track on the starting shortstop job after Rafael Furcal reinjured his elbow early in camp, and won it when veteran Ronny Cedeno was released on March 19. The former first-round pick had foundered in the minors before getting a late-season shot last year when Furcal was first hurt. Carpenter has added second base to his lengthy list of positions after appearing at five spots last year, but he’ll begin the season at third with David Freese (.293, 20, 79) on the disabled list due to a back injury.

Outlook: After finishing nine games behind the division-champion Reds, the Cardinals were one win from a repeat World Series appearance before blowing a 3-1 NLCS lead against the Giants. Since then, they’ve lost 16-game winner Lohse to free agency, added no key pieces and been hit hard by injuries. Former ace Chris Carpenter’s career is likely over due to nerve issues in his pitching arm. Furcal is out for the year after reconstructive elbow surgery. Freese and Motte (forearm) are both on the shelf to begin the season. Boggs is the stand-in closer. To top it off, Matheny missed a few days of camp due to back surgery. The Cardinals are banking heavily on Wainwright, just signed to a $97.5 million, five-year contract covering 2014-18, regaining his form as one of the NL’s top starters in his second year back from elbow reconstruction. They’re also counting on young arms Rosenthal, Kelly and Shelby Miller blossoming, Garcia avoiding another trip to the DL and Kozma settling in at the bottom of one of the league’s best lineups.

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