ST. LOUIS — In a "state of the team" address Saturday at the St. Louis Cardinals' 17th annual Winter Warm-Up, General Manager John Mozeliak discussed a number of hot-button issues.
Following are some of the highlights:
*Mozeliak said veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal's recovery from a torn ligament in his right elbow has progressed, but he acknowledged the Cardinals aren't completely comfortable with the situation.
"Everything we're hearing from down in Florida is very good," Mozeliak said. "Now, you certainly leave yourself some exposure with regard to that, so we have to have contingency plans. That's what we'll work on."
Mozeliak said Pete Kozma, who batted .333 in 72 at-bats last season, has the inside track on playing time should Furcal experience a setback. Mozeliak also referred to Kozma as a "swingman" who will back up at second base.
"When you look at what Kozma did in that brief time last year, we feel confident he can come up and still be a contributor," Mozeliak said. "If we feel like we still need to address the middle infield, we certainly will consider it.
"We haven't turned off any of our exploration on that at this point, either. We're still open to that. We're still looking at things. As we move closer to (spring training), we'll continue to try to do that and try to find ways to improve the team."
Mozeliak said Furcal isn't expected to have any restrictions in spring training, but manager Mike Matheny will be cautious.
"As far as how we pace him, it might be different than in past years," Mozeliak said. "That's something the manager and coaches have already talked about anyway in terms of balancing his playing time throughout the year. Obviously, where he is in his career, we have to protect him to some degree."
* Right-hander Adam Wainwright is entering the final year of his contract, but Mozeliak said there have been no substantive talks.
"We haven't had any dialogue pointing to any lines drawn in the sand," Mozeliak said. "We'll take the next four weeks or so and see what we can do. ... We're always open to talking. If it rolls into spring training, I'm perfectly comfortable with that.
"We both want to get to a positive ending, and that's something we'll work toward."
The 31-year-old Wainwright will earn $12 million this season. He was 14-13 with a 3.94 ERA in 32 starts last year.
* Mozeliak said early in the offseason that Matt Carpenter would receive a chance to earn the starting job at second base.
But the general manager has backed off that stance a bit, hinting Saturday that Daniel Descalso could still be the best option.
"For me, I'm very comfortable with what Descalso's done there," Mozeliak said. "Clearly, if you see an uptick in his offense, he's an ideal contributor because I think defensively, he does a very good job."
If Furcal, 35, is playing regularly and contributing offensively, Mozeliak said Descalso's above-average defense would be enough to keep him in the lineup. But the Cardinals envision Descalso as having enough potential to bat better than .227.
*Pitcher Kyle Lohse, who was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA in 33 starts with the Cardinals last season, still is unsigned.
Mozeliak said the Cardinals still are not likely to re-sign Lohse, citing the organizational depth in starting pitching. However, an injury could alter the landscape.
"Right now, I would say from the Cardinals' standpoint, we feel we're moving on," Mozeliak said. "But you never want to shut doors completely, because you just never know. Somebody could be injured in the next day. Keeping an open mind is probably always the best strategy."
The Cardinals made a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer to Lohse that was rejected by Lohse and his agent, Scott Boras.
The market for the 34-year-old Lohse has been slow because any team that signs him will forfeit a first-round pick and lose the bonus money assigned to that selection in the amateur draft.
That stipulation would not apply to the Cardinals.
*Mozeliak can't wait to evaluate outfielder Oscar Taveras and second baseman Kolten Wong in spring training.
Taveras, 20, batted .321 with 37 doubles, seven triples, 23 home runs and 94 RBIs in 124 games at Class AA Springfield last season. He is the Cardinals' No. 1 prospect.
"Starting with Taveras, every level he's been at, he's won," Mozeliak said. "Every level he's at, he's basically been named Player of the Year. Getting him in a major-league camp and watching him compete, he's probably going to get a lot of opportunities given our current roster.
"The expectation of going down there and seeing him play quite a bit is exciting. I think everybody's looking forward to that, including our major-league staff."
Wong, 22, batted .287 with 23 doubles, six triples, nine homers and 52 RBIs in 126 games at Springfield.
"He's been pushed quickly," Mozeliak said. "Just watching him continue to grow is important. This year's a very important year for him, but it's critical that he gets his at-bats."
Mozeliak said neither Taveras nor Wong are likely to break camp with the Cardinals, although it's clear their time is coming soon.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.