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Fox Sports: Cards still team to be feared

Fox Sports writer J.P. Morosi thinks the Cardinals still have the pitching staff to win the National League Central Division -- even without Adam Wainwright in 2011.

And he said the Redbirds coaches and players still think they're the team to beat, too.

“I knew the whole time we were going to be fine,” Jaime Garcia told Morosi. “We’re confident about the group of guys we have. Everybody’s excited.”

Morosi said while the Cardinals rotation might not be as imposing as it was with Cy Young runner up Wainwright in the mix, he still considers it to be "formidable" with 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Kyle McClellan, Garcia and a rejouvenated Kyle Lohse in the mix.

He writes:

"Lohse’s progress might be the most encouraging development of all. He barely pitched last year after undergoing surgery to correct a neuromuscular condition in his right forearm. But he’s beginning to remind the Cardinals why they gave him a four-year, $41 million contract extension after the 2008 season. Teammates have been very impressed with his restored repertoire and performance (2-0, 1.38 ERA) this spring"

 “His stuff is back" back-up catcher Gerald Laird told Morosi. "He’s locating. There’s bite on every pitch.”

The Cardinals consider their biggest concern at this point to be the bullpen, not the rotation. Someone has to be found to assume McClellan's prominent role as a righty reliever. But pitching coach Dave Duncam, who said he doesn't mind people underestimating the Redbirds, told Morosi he thinks the club even has that base covered.

“Everybody forgets about (2010 call-up Fernando) Salas,” Duncan told Morosi “He did a helluva job for us last year, and he’s throwing well again this spring.”

About the only thing that remains to be decided this spring is if Class AA infielder Matt Carpenter's line drive filled camp will translate into a utility infielder spot on the roster when the Birds break camp.