JUPITER, Fla. — The battle to secure the St. Louis Cardinals' final roster spot among position players appears to be between first baseman Matt Adams and infielder Ronny Cedeno.
The left-handed-hitting Adams, 24, is batting .343 (12-for-35) with two home runs and eight RBIs in 15 games this spring. Cedeno, 30, is hitting .250 (7-for-28) with one homer and five RBIs in 15 games.
Adams, who clubbed a three-run homer in the Cardinals' 5-1 victory over Washington on Friday and had a single in their 3-0 loss to Detroit on Saturday, is behind Allen Craig on the first-base depth chart, and there are concerns about whether he would receive enough at-bats at the big-league level to merit a roster spot.
The Cardinals don't want Adams to waste away on the bench instead of receive regular at-bats at Class AAA Memphis.
If the Cardinals can get Adams a handful of at-bats every week, he could be valuable as a spot starter and a power bat off the bench. How many at-bats would he require to stay sharp and productive?
"You guys know I'm no good at that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Saturday morning. "I don't give you the number of innings somebody needs to pitch (or) the number of at-bats. But he needs to play. They all do. Even the guys that are slated to be bench guys, they need to play, too.
"There's not this magic number. You just watch and see what it looks like and get them all the most amount of work you can give them."
Cedeno's presence would bolster the Cardinals' middle-infield depth, which includes Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso and Matt Carpenter. If Cedeno does not make the team, the Cardinals are gambling that three middle infielders will be enough.
That could be the way they are leaning. Craig started in right field and Adams was at first base Saturday. It was Craig's first outfield assignment this spring.
"That's a position we know (Craig) can play," Matheny said, referring to right field. "It gives us, potentially, some more flexibility to allow a Matt Adams to get on the field and still have Allen Craig on the field.
"We're just looking at all the potential things that could happen, and knowing that's a position Allen feels very comfortable (playing), too. It's almost a little bit of a break for him to get to the outfield compared to the demands of first base."
Craig's versatility --he also can play left field --could work in Adams' favor since the Cardinals are determined to keep left fielder Matt Holliday, 33, and right fielder Carlos Beltran, 35, fresh by giving them occasional days off.
"As we start talking about trying to take care of Carlos through the season, there's going to be days that he's going to have the opportunity to take a breather," Matheny said. "We'll see how that all plays out with what our roster looks like, but that's an option --putting somebody else at first base and letting Allen move to the outfield."
The hard-hitting Craig is prepared to be a swingman.
"I've done that my entire career," Craig said. "I think I'll probably play the majority of games at first base, but I enjoy playing outfield, too. I like the time out there with Jon (Jay) and Matt. I don't really care.
"If that helps Adams or 'Carp' get in the lineup and it makes our team better, I'm all for it."
Craig said Adams' bat is ready to make an impact.
"I don't think there's any question that he can really hit," Craig said. "It's just about opportunity. He'll get his chance, but he's a lot of fun to watch."
Regarding the occasional break for Holliday, Matheny said he meets resistance from the six-time All-Star every time the topic is discussed.
"I don't think he's real excited about that idea," Matheny said. "He wants 162 (games). We just have to see what it looks like and see how his body is reacting, but also realizing if something comes up a little tight here or there, we can spell him through that and not make him push through it."
Cards trim roster
After the game Saturday, the Cardinals reduced their roster to 43 players by optioning right-handed pitchers Eric Fornataro and Michael Blazek to Class AAA Memphis.
Both pitchers worked one scoreless inning Saturday and finished major-league spring training with 1.80s ERA in six games and six innings.
Pitching for the first time since March 1, left-hander Marc Rzepczynski threw a perfect seventh and struck out one Saturday.
Rzepczynski, who was cleared to pitch Friday by Jupiter ophthalmologist Dr. Steven Schnell, will meet one more time with Schnell on Wednesday.
Rzepczynski still has minor inflammation in his left eye after a golfing accident. He can't wear his contacts, which he needs only for night games, until Schnell gives the OK.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.