ST. LOUIS — It's a foregone conclusion that Kolten Wong is the St. Louis Cardinals' second baseman of the future.
Wong, a first-round pick in 2011, is expected to calm the volatility the Cardinals have had at the position for many years.
Until then? Well, spring training will be another time of experimentation. The Cardinals, convinced Tyler Greene was the answer last year, this season could turn to Matt Carpenter.
Even Carpenter isn't sure how he will fare in his competition against gritty Daniel Descalso, whom the Cardinals love.
"My expectation is I'll come down (to spring training) and I'll go through the practices and the coaches and everybody will be like, 'Wow, he looks pretty good,'" Carpenter said. "Then we'll get in the game and that's when we'll really find out.
"I don't even know because I've never done it. But at the same time, I'm encouraged with the way it's gone and I think I'll be able to handle it. But we'll find out when we get out there. We'll evaluate from there. It's going to be new for all of us."
The reason Carpenter is being considered for the spot is his offensive production. He batted .294 with six home runs and 46 RBIs as a rookie last season, playing five positions.
The Cardinals rave about Descalso's defense, but clearly are dissatisfied with his regression on offense. So, if Descalso hits, he likely keep second base warm until Wong is ready.
"I see it as his job to lose," Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said. "But it is a spot we're open to. We'll see what Matt Carpenter can do and just be open-minded about it."
If Carpenter is the Opening Day starter at second, he will be the 13th player to earn that honor since 1995. Others are: Manny Lee (1995), Luis Alicea (1996), Delino DeShields (1997-98), Placido Polanco (1999), Fernando Vina (2000-03), Tony Womack (2004), Mark Grudzielanek (2005), Aaron Miles (2006), Adam Kennedy (2007-08), Brendan Ryan (2009), Skip Schumaker (2010-11) and Descalso (2012).
Carpenter, 27, has been working out at second during the offseason and would enjoy the regular playing time. But given his versatility, there will be plenty of at-bats for Carpenter even if he doesn't nail down the starting job.
"Really, I'm just working at it every day with the mind-set of trying to get comfortable over there so that when I come into spring training, I can prove to our coaching staff that I can handle it," Carpenter said. "Whatever role ends up happening, they'll decide that --if I'm going to help out whenever I can or if at all.
"(But) I work on it every day with the mind-set of coming into camp and showing them that I can handle it."
Descalso, 26, has an ally in manager Mike Matheny, whose benching of Schumaker last season spoke volumes of his affinity for Descalso.
"I'm a big Daniel Descalso fan just like everybody in that clubhouse is," Matheny said. "He's a team player. He's a gutsy player that goes out and is not afraid to get dirty. He's a Cardinals-style baseball player and we love having him on the team. I think how the spring rolls through for him will determine things moving forward."
In other words, if Descalso hits, he'll start.
"Daniel certainly provided us some excitement and he provided some consistency to what he did in the past with the glove," Matheny said. "And I believe he's a better hitter than he showed last year. I think he would be the first one to stand up and say the same thing.
"But it's a tough game to pull off on a consistent basis, and the guy who does that normally gets the opportunity to get out there and get more playing time."
How closely can Carpenter simulate the defensive demands of second base before spring training starts later this month? The truth is, there's only so much he can do with what he calls his offseason "homework assignment."
"(I'm) just out there taking ground balls, fungoes every day. Working on the field, turning double plays," Carpenter said. "All the plays that could come up in the game, (I'm) trying to get those repetitions down.
"It's hard to simulate a game. But as far as the confidence and all those things --and trying to simulate every ground ball that you possibly could get and all the different-type double plays from short, third, all those different throws -- it's coming along pretty good. I've been pretty encouraged with how it's gone."