ST. LOUIS — Once again, the St. Louis Cardinals have adopted a new game plan at second base.
Skip Schumaker already was out of the mix, and now it appears Daniel Descalso is, too, because Matt Carpenter has been told to come to spring training with the idea of taking over the position.
Minor-league phenom Kolten Wong, the Cardinals' No. 1 draft choice in 2011, will be in spring training but isn't expected to be ready to take over at second base until 2014.
Carpenter, then, represents another stopgap at a position that has seen more than its share of turnover in the last decade.
"I told (Carpenter) to make it a focus," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of second base. "Go and see what he can do and show up to spring training ready to be a ballplayer, ready to play anywhere, but have some repetition over there (at second).
"How I see it, I don't know. We'll just show up to spring training and watch him. All I know about him is he's going to be working. I don't know who he's going to do it with. I've encouraged him to stay in touch with (coach) Jose Oquendo. We'll probably get them hooked up a time or two this winter. He'll be ready."
Carpenter batted .294 with six homers and 46 RBIs in 114 games.
Schumaker was converted to second base in 2009 and was the regular, when healthy, through 2011. But Matheny and General Manager John Mozeliak were bullish on Descalso, who gained most of the playing time at second base this season.
"Skip did a great job when we needed him," Mozeliak said. "I think probably the last month or so was tough on him because he didn't get as much playing time as he was normally used to, but I think he handled it well."
Asked whether Schumaker was still a second baseman, Mozeliak said: "It's just hard to imagine him getting a ton of playing time there with what we know we have and what we know we have coming."
Mozeliak announced Thursday that bullpen coach Dyar Miller will not return in 2013 and that the Cardinals will look within the organization to find a replacement.
"When we were putting the coaching staff together last year, we were doing it quickly," Mozeliak said. "Dyar deserved that opportunity, but when we look at this long-term now, we definitely want to have Mike put some of his fingerprints on this as well."
Mozeliak said Miller was surprised by the news. The general manager does not know whether Miller will be offered another position with the team.
"We were happy to have Dyar with us, and we're excited about giving another guy an opportunity --hopefully another guy within the organization," Matheny said. "We know we have some talented people and an opportunity to expose them to what's going on here."
The other members of Matheny's coaching staff are expected to return: hitting coach Mark McGwire, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist, third-base coach Oquendo, first-base coach Chris Maloney, bench coach Mike Aldrete and assistant hitting coach John Mabry.
Matheny hopes all of them return.
"(But) I didn't pound them with questions as they were walking out the door," he said. "I told them how grateful I was to each of them. They were helping me do my job as well as their own, and they were doing their own very well."
Mozeliak said left-hander Jaime Garcia's chances of having surgery on his strained left rotator cuff is "remote, or small, at this point."
"Clearly, we're going to go into spring training holding our breath a little bit with regard to him," Mozeliak said. "He's prgressing right now in his rehab. He's feeling good about that, which is encoraging. But until you really have to ramp it up and put yourself on that mound, we're not going to know for sure until spring training."
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who has a torn ligament in his throwing elbow, also is trying to avoid surgery by rehabbing.
"He's in that same mind set, which is trying to avoid it at all costs," Mozeliak said. "He has a few hurdles to hop before the calendar turns to December, and that should give us a better idea. I also would echo that I think it's a low probability of him having surgery."
Furcal, who is signed through 2013, started the season on a high, but finished at .264 with five homers and 49 RBIs in 121 games.
"Clearly, Furcal has earned the right to be given that position, but it's all going to be on health and production," Mozeliak said. "He has to show up to camp in shape, ready to go and ready to contribute. Otherwise, Pete Kozma certainly put himself back on the map."
Berkman a reserve?
Lance Berkman underwent two knee surgeries during the season and isn't even sure he wants to continue to play.
Even if he wants to extend his career, there won't be many at-bats for him in St. Louis with Allen Craig entrenched at first base.
"When you look at the depth of what we have coming (back), it's hard to imagine us finding a fit for him here," Mozeliak said. "I would certainly say I have not sat down with him to even talk to him about it. I don't know what his expectations are, what he would envision his role being.
"But clearly, (the chances of) getting everyday at-bats for the St. Louis Cardinals would be very remote. He has to determine what he wants to do, but for us right now, it's hard to imagine us getting him significant at-bats. If he understands it would be a reduced role, there's a possibility for a potential fit."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.