Cardinals finalize their Opening Day roster

Cardinals finalize their Opening Day roster

JUPITER, Fla. -- Upon informing Pete Kozma and Randal Grichuk that they will begin the season on the Major League team, manager Mike Matheny all but finalized their 25-man roster on Tuesday.

Barring any injuries, the Cardinals will open the season Sunday in Chicago with the following players:

Starters (5): Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez

Relievers (7): Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Walden, Seth Maness, Matt Belisle, Kevin Siegrist, Randy Choate, Carlos Villanueva

Catchers (2): Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz

Infielders (6): Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, Mark Reynolds, Kozma

Outfielders (5): Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay, Grichuk, Peter Bourjos

With the compositions of the bullpen and rotation confirmed on Monday, the only remaining unknowns were how the Cardinals would build their five-man bench.

In the end, the Cardinals chose to add defensive versatility (Kozma) and power (Grichuk), while also giving Matheny the flexibility to infuse some right-handed influence into his left-handed heavy starting lineup.

The Cardinals project to have five left-handed hitters (Carpenter, Heyward, Adams, Jay and Wong) in their regular lineup. The bench, in contrast, is all right-handed. But the Cardinals have spoken openly about getting Reynolds regular opportunities against left-handed pitchers. The same intent will be there with Grichuk, whom the Cardinals don't want to get stale on the bench.

"I like where we are right now in the fact that we have a couple different ways we can go about it," Matheny said. "You could flood a bunch of righties in there, or we can let our lefties do their thing and have some serious horsepower ready for them late. It's going to be a great challenge, too, to see how we have positioned it."

The organization opened spring somewhat anticipating that Grichuk, 23, would open the year in Triple-A so that he could continue his development with regular at-bats. But Grichuk changed those projections with a sensational spring showing. After a brief setback with lower back tightness, Grichuk took off. He enters Tuesday with four homers, 10 RBIs and a .931 OPS in Grapefruit League play.

He has also impressed with his baserunning smarts and has the defensive ability to fit anywhere in the outfield, including center field. That may be where the best starting opportunity lies, as Grichuk could provide a nice foil to the left-handed-hitting Jay.

"We're going to try to give him as much work as we can," Matheny said. "Just watching what he's done this spring, I just couldn't imagine leaving here without him on our club."

As for Kozma, he's had a nomadic spring, playing around the infield and outfield as the Cardinals prepared him for a super-utility role. He's even taken a few turns catching in the batting cages in case there is a need for an emergency catcher.

He further helped his own cause by hitting safely in 12 of 21 games. He ranks second in the National League with a .429 spring average and leads the Cards with five multi-hit games.

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.