JUPITER, Fla. — The jetlag behind him and sprint to opening day ahead of him, Cardinals starting shortstop Tommy Edman returns to the lineup a few days after touching down from his globetrotting trip to Japan.
Edman, who played second base for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic, will bat leadoff to assure him the most plate appearances as early in the game as possible.
He is the second of the Cardinals' returning from the WBC to ease back into the Grapefruit League schedule. Center fielder Oscar Mercado rejoined the lineup Friday after competing for Colombia in Arizona during the international tournament. Genesis Cabrera, back in camp after throwing for the Dominican Republic in Miami in pool play, will appear in Saturday's game.
He joins a competition for lefty relief spots already in progress, and soon so will Andre Pallante.
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The right-hander who has success limiting left-handed hitters is in the mix for that bullpen spot. He returned from abroad Saturday morning, a few days after Pallante and Team Italia lost to Japan in a quarterfinal game at the Tokyo Dome. Pallante pitched in that game and struck out teammate Lars Nootbaar before leaving two runners on base that scored after he left the game. Pallante did not give up a hit, did not give up a run while he was on the mound, but was tagged with two of the runs that put the game away for Japan.
Tyler O'Neill is also back from the WBC, and he'll reappear in the lineup within the next few days.
When he does, he'll start at center field, manager Oliver Marmol said.
Edman has long been advertised as the team's starting shortstop, and the only machinations at the position that happened during his absence was the rise of a standout prospect and the questions of who will back him up.
Masyn Winn had three hits, a three-run triple, and has been a spring sensation, but the Cardinals are not racing to promote him to the majors as Edman's backup for 2023. Jose Fermin was injured early in camp and lost playing time before he had much of a look at shortstop. Brendan Donovan started at shortstop this pats week and is the current healthy backup to Winn.
The Cardinals have that backup position reserved for Paul DeJong, but the former All-Star has had difficulty maintain his health to get the at-bats needed to secure the job.
DeJong played catch Saturday morning and planned to take swings in the batting cage for the first time since being slowed by a stiff lower back. The biggest issue he said he continues to have bending down for grounders. His starts at shortstop were already limited by a sore arm, and they've been eliminated for several days due to the sore back.
Marmol repeated Saturday morning that the Cardinals need to see results from DeJong's overhauled swing for him to move into the backup role behind Edman, and that those swings, those at-bats, those moments are best view in the game. Marmol said he wants to see how DeJong reacts from a setback in a game, and also how he adjusts within at-bats to pitches, not just how he's doing against those pitches in the batting cage with cameras focused on him.
And here is the lineup that will face the Detroit Tigers on their first to the Atlantic coast for the weekend:
1. Tommy Edman, SS
2. Dylan Carlson, CF
3. Juan Yepez, RF
4. Willson Contreras, C
5. Alec Burleson, 1B
6. Taylor Motter, 3B
7. Masyn Winn, 2B
8. Andrew Knizner, DH
9. Chase Pinder, LF
Starting pitcher: Matthew Liberatore, LHP.
Also scheduled to pitch: Genesis Cabrera, LHP; Anthony Misiewicz, LHP; Andrew Suarez, LHP; Wilking Rodriguez, RHP; and, if needed, Logan Sawyer, RHP, and a few others.
Check back throughout the afternoon here at StlToday.com for coverage of the Cardinals' game on the day after St. Patrick's Day. There will be expanded and exclusive coverage of the Cardinals by Lynn Worthy and Ben Frederickson in the pages of the Sunday Post-Dispatch, not to mention coverage of Mizzou's men's basketball team in the NCAA Tournament, SLU's women's team in the NCAA Tournament, and, of course STL City SC's home match.