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Age shows for Cardinals old guard

There's no doubt the Cardinals have the talent to repeat as World Series champions. But I am starting to wonder if this club is going to be healthy enough to hold together through the challenging, long major league season.

We're a week into spring training games and ace pitcher Chris Carpenter has been shut down by a neck problem. And that's after the Redbirds were already handling him with kid gloves because his aging arm threw so many innings last season. Rafael Furcal has been missing in action because of leg problems. Lance Berkman has been played sparingly because of soreness. Carlos Beltran has been limited to mostly designated hitter duties to save his knees and Matt Holliday has been a rare Grapefruit League sight.

While Furcal will try to give it a go today, according to the line-up posted at Roger Dean Stadium, Berkman and Beltran won't start. Alex Cora is set to play first base while Shane Robinson, who has virtually no chance to make the 25-man roster, will start in right field.

If the Birds are having such a time keeping players on the field in March, what's going to happen in August? It's no coincidence that the players who are having problems are all in their thirties. And most of them are in their late thirties. For the Cardinals to have a chance to defend their crown, the youngsters are going to have to pitch in and fill the holes that appear over the course of the season. Ot course, we're still waiting for one of those kids -- Allen Craig -- to make an appearance after off-season knee surgery.

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