JUPITER, Fla. -- Seven days out from an Opening Night matchup against the Cubs, the Cardinals continue to weigh the various ways in which they could construct their roster because of the flexibility offered by a high concentration of early-season off-days.
Manager Mike Matheny acknowledged that the club is still discussing three possibilities. One is that they carry a fifth starter, even though the club doesn't have to use that starter until April 19. Taking one anyway would allow the Cardinals to build in extra rest for their other four starters and would leave them with the usual five bench players and seven relievers. The fifth rotation spot would be claimed by either Carlos Martinez or Marco Gonzales.
Should the club opt to roll with a four-man rotation for the first two weeks, it would have an extra 25-man roster spot available for that stretch. That could go to either an eighth reliever or a 14th position player. Either way, it would further fortify another area for the team.
"You have to go through all those different scenarios of what it would possibly look like," Matheny said. "We have a few games to ride the rest of this out and see how it plays out. But [we're] just kind of walking through all the different options and realizing we have a little time. We'll take that time without having to draw up our roster, right now."
Ironically, the same off-days that could allow the Cardinals to carry an extra reliever might be the reason they don't. With three off-days over the season's first 10 days, the Cardinals should be able to keep their bullpen relatively fresh, even with just seven available arms. Adding the extra bat off the bench would allow Matheny to be more aggressive in how he deploys his reserves as pinch-hitters, pinch-runners or defensive replacements.
If the Cardinals do choose to forgo deploying a fifth starter for some time, they would also have to decide what to do with the pitcher who will fill that spot beginning mid-month. He could either be used out of the bullpen or begin the season in Triple-A, where he can remain stretched out.
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.