ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' defense of their consecutive division titles will begin in just days when players and staff gather together again at the team's spring complex in Jupiter, Fla. Behind everyone sits an offseason of tragedy and change, while ahead lies the potential of another run to October.
Pitchers and catchers are required to report by Feb. 19, and the team's first full-squad workout will take place less than a week later. In the days leading up to those early workouts, cardinals.com will offer a series of stories to examine a variety of issues and questions that should gain clarity during the team's time in Florida.
Up first is a look at four bounce-back candidates who could greatly impact the Cardinals' upcoming season if able to rebound from an injury-plagued or subpar 2014.
ON THE REBOUND:
LHP Jaime Garcia: A series of arm issues limited Garcia to 16 starts over the past two seasons and has left him on the outside looking in as the Cardinals build their rotation plans. He can change that standing, of course, by proving his health this spring following a long rehab from thoracic outlet surgery. General manager John Mozeliak recently described reports on Garcia's health as "extraordinarily positive."
LHP Kevin Siegrist: Following a breakout rookie season in 2013, Siegrist endured a tumultuous sophomore campaign in which he battled continual discomfort in his left arm. The issues started last May, when a strained left forearm led to a two-month stint on the disabled list. His season further snowballed when he then dealt with a nerve issue in his neck, leaving Siegrist out of the club's postseason picture. A healthy Siegrist would give the Cardinals' bullpen a boost from the left side.
RHP Michael Wacha: Expectations were high for Wacha last season following his history-making postseason showing the previous October. Eager to prove himself more than a one-month wonder, Wacha pitched well for 2 1/2 months before a stress reaction in his shoulder landed him on the DL in June. The uniqueness of the injury required the Cardinals to do much research on the cause and rehab options, but the medical staff and Wacha feel they have a handle on the injury so as not to risk a recurrence.
OF Peter Bourjos: Bourjos never went public with an injury last season, but he later admitted that he played the second half of the season with constant discomfort near his right hip. He addressed that issue by undergoing surgery to relieve the hip impingement shortly after the season ended. That issue likely contributed to Bourjos' disappointing offensive season. Given the chance to win the team's starting center field job, Bourjos never took the reins. He finished the year as a bench player and with a .231/.294/.348 slash line.