Key questions heading into Grapefruit play

Status of Garcia, chances of Martinez seizing starting job among Cardinals' hot topics

Key questions heading into Grapefruit play

JUPITER, Fla. -- After nearly two weeks of fielding fundamentals, bullpen sessions and batting practice, the Cardinals will move on to the next phase of Spring Training with the start of their Grapefruit League season on Thursday. They'll face the Marlins first, with Thursday's first pitch scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT at Roger Dean Stadium.

The team's rotation competition will get the spotlight early, as Carlos Martinez, Marco Gonzales and Jaime Garcia are scheduled to start the Cardinals' first three spring games. But filling out that rotation isn't the only item on the Cards' spring to-do list.

In fact, here are seven questions (in no particular order) that the Cardinals will look to answer over their upcoming 28-game Grapefruit League slate:

1. What will become of Garcia?
The left-hander insists he's healthy. The Cardinals want to believe he's healthy. But until Garcia can package durability with his talent, the Cards aren't sure how he'll fit in. A strong spring from Garcia could force St. Louis to find a place for him in either the rotation or bullpen.

Wainwright pleased with progress

2. When will Adam Wainwright make his Grapefruit League debut?
The date of Wainwright's first game appearance will largely determine whether he'll be the team's Opening Day starter. But expect the Cardinals to be conservative with Wainwright's schedule so as to allow his abdominal area to fully heal.

3. Can Kevin Siegrist master his new mechanics?
Convinced that his arm troubles are behind him, Siegrist has focused on adding a slide step this spring to quicken his time to the plate and therefore halt the running game. If he can make it all work, the Cards may have their lefty setup man back.

4. Will Martinez seize a rotation job?
Martinez could make as many as six spring starts as part of his audition. The Cardinals are looking for a more mature handling of his emotions, and they need to see improved efficiency from the right-hander. Gonzales and Garcia will try to make the team's decision even tougher.

Matheny on 27-out simulation

5. Who will emerge from a crowded utility infielder competition?
The Cardinals have four backup infielders -- Pete Kozma, Ty Kelly, Dean Anna and Greg Garcia -- with differing skill sets. Whichever one best fits the need the Cards have at the end of camp will likely win the bench job.

6. How long until Jon Jay is cleared for game play?
Offseason left wrist surgery delayed Jay's start to his offseason hitting program, and that will delay his Grapefruit League debut. But as long as he gets into games by mid-March, the center fielder should have ample time to get ready.

7. How will the Cardinals sift through their plethora of lefty relief options?
In addition to Siegrist, the Cards have a slew of lefty relievers to pick through. Randy Choate has a secure spot. Sam Freeman is out of options. Gonzales could fit in a rotation -- be it in the Majors or Triple-A -- or the bullpen. St. Louis just has to piece it all together.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.