Top three reasons to be optimistic about the 2009 Cardinals:
1) Chris Carpenter has suffered no setbacks yet. The Cardinals simply have to have their ace to be competitive, especially since they have so little depth in the rotation. It's almost more than St. Louis fans could have hoped for to imagine that Carp, who missed almost all of two seasons, could be back to 100 percent in 2009.
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2) Khalil Green not only looks like he's a better player than he was last year. He seems like he "gets it" when it comes to his offensive and defensive reports. He has made a conscious effort to cut down on the strikeouts and be a team player when it comes to pushing runners around the bases. That's refreshing when he is in the walk year of his contract and could be tempted to try to pad his next contract by going for as many homers as he could hit... The Cardinals don't need 30 homers from their shortstop. They need him to get on base, move runners up and to hit in the clutch.
3) Albert Pujols probably deserves a down year once in an eight-year career. But he shows no signs it's going to be this one. He's tearing the ball up this spring and looks ready to go with no lingering signs of elbow or foot trouble.
Top three things to be concerned about with the 2009 Cardinals:
1) Colby Rasmus has shown some signs of life lately. But, especially if Skip Schumaker is going to play second base and Joe Mather is at third, the Cardinals need Rasmus to be a productive major leaguer. There is no doubt Rasmus has the physical talent. But he needs to show the mental toughness to get the job done under the glaring MLB spotlight.
2) Third base: Mather has done a nice job so far this spring. But he can't replace Troy Glaus' power bat. Glaus is a slow starter. So, once he does get back in the lineup, there is no guarantee that he will be productive right away.
3) Schumaker is trying his best to learn a tough position on the fly. But, if there is one thing that is certain in baseball, it's that the ball will find the least confident fielder at the the worst possible time. I just can't see the Cardinals being a playoff threat with Schumaker at second base.