The Cardinals have received a lot of criticism for plans to play Lance Berkman in right field.
But, while I can't vouch for his health or how well he'll hold up over the course of a long season, I can't complain about his outfield defense in the games I have seen him play during Grapefruit League action.
I've seen him twice go deep into the right field corner to cut off balls that seemed to be sure doubles. And when he has had to throw, I was impressed with his arm strength and accuracy. Does Berkman have the arm of Larry Walker? No. But he does have the same sort of veteran smarts that made Walker such a good right fielder. I think he'll do just fine -- IF he stays healthy.
Berkman's defense won't be the downfall of the Cardinals. He's better in right that Chris Duncan was in the outfield corners. And he's better than Allen Craig is now. I'm not saying he is in contention to win a gold glove. But I think he'll make the plays he needs to make.
I am much more worried about the infield defense than the outfield.
Ryan Theriot's range seems to be lacking. We already knew Skip Schumaker had poor range and David Freese is an average defender -- at best -- at third base. But Freese can't play every day at this point. And, while he has been tearing the cover off the ball thus far, Matt Carpenter's defense has been terrible. If Carpenter makes the team, on days that Freese can't play, the St. Louis infield defense is going to be brutal. It's not that he isn't making any tough plays. It's that Carpenter has failed to make far too many routine plays. And the Cardinals pitching staff can't handle that sort of abuse.
On Saturday Carpenter played a ball off to the side and a cherry hop bounded right over his glove into left field. Starting pitcher Kyle Lohse immediately reassured Carpenter that everything was going to be okay. But I wonder what the reaction would have been if there were men on first and second with two out in a tie game and that ball was botched. That's the sort of thing that makes a pitcher come unhinged and loses ballgames.
I hope Nick Punto gets well soon. And, from what I have heard, he might be back before the Birds originally projected him to return. The talk was that he might be out until the end of May after sports hernia surgery. But there is some speculation that he might be back as soon as the end of April. His glove could make a huge difference for the Cardinals.