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Cardinals youngsters on the bubble shine, vets shrink from challenge

The St. Louis Cardinals' 7-1 win Tuesday win over the Miami Marlins was like the team's entire spring training rolled into one game.

Some of the youngsters who needed to step up to show they belong on the major league roster distinguished themselves with strong performances. Meanwhile, some of the veterans who need to make good on what could be their last chance to prove they aren't big league washouts, continued to struggle.

Marco Gonzales, who got the start, was impressive. He allowed one run over 4 2/3 innings of work to bring his spring earned run average to 0.84. He struck out three and walked two. At the plate, Pete Kozma was two-for-two with a pair of runs scored to raise his batting average to .455 for the spring. Showing his versatility, after pinch running for Matt Holliday, Kozma spent some time in the outfield.

On the other side of the spectrum, veteran lefty Randy Choate gave up very sharply hit ground balls to first base to the first two batters he faced. First baseman Scott Moore bailed Choate out on the first one with a nifty stop. But, although he made a similar play on the second one, Choate didn't get over to first base to take the throw in time to retire Ichiro Suzuki. It was an embarrassing lack of effort from a veteran hurler.

At the plate, Peter Bourjos was hitless in three at bats. He hit into a double play, struck out swinging and struck out looking to complete a remarkably awful day at the plate. His batting average stands at .043 for the spring, to which his apologists would respond that "it's a small sample size" of statistics or "it's just spring training." But at what point is he going to compete? It's always some excuse.

With Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty playing well -- and now Kozma hitting out of his mind while showing he can play some in the outfield corners -- it's tough to imagine Bourjos taking a roster spot away from any of them.

Meanwhile, Gonzales appeared to be the odd man out with Carlos Martinez having the inside track for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. And, so far at least, Jaime Garcia seems to have gotten himself healthy enough to put himself in the competition. But how do you leave Gonzales out of the picture when he's allowing less than one run for every nine innings he pitches?

One guy whose roster spot isn't in doubt is shortstop Johnny Peralta who suddenly found the on switch Monday and kept the juice flowing Tuesday.

Entering Monday against the Detroit Tigers, Peralta was hitless for the spring. But he collected one hit against the Tigers and then added a 3-for-3 day Tuesday to improve his batting average from zero to .235 in one day.