Lyons, Rosenthal on tap in Grapefruit opener

Lyons, Rosenthal on tap in Grapefruit opener

JUPITER, Fla. -- Two weeks after their first official workout and one month before opening the regular season in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals will kick off their 28-game Grapefruit League season on Thursday. The Marlins, with whom they share Roger Dean Field, will be the Cardinals' first spring opponent. First pitch is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. CT.

After fielding a team of mostly Minor Leaguers in their 13-6 exhibition game victory against Florida Atlantic University on Wednesday, the Cardinals will get some of their more prominent players involved in the spring opener. Lefty Tyler Lyons, who entered camp out of options and vying for a big league bullpen job, will draw the start.

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Closer Trevor Rosenthal, veteran reliever Jonathan Broxton and Rule 5 Draft pick Matthew Bowman are among the other pitchers scheduled to take the mound in the opener.

The Cardinals don't have a bevy of roster spots up for grabs this spring, but that doesn't mean they'll navigate the next four weeks without purpose. The competition between Brandon Moss and Matt Adams for first-base at-bats will be of particular interest, as will be the progress of those like Jordan Walden, Carlos Martinez and Yadier Molina, all of whom are returning from injury.

Bullpen jobs need to be settled and a bench will have to be built. And then there's the task of settling on a lineup.

Manager Mike Matheny reiterated on Wednesday that he plans to shuffle his batting order throughout the spring. He hopes that through experimentation he can find optimization for a club looking to upgrade its offensive profile after ranking 11th with an average of 3.99 runs per game last season.

No one's batting-order spot is yet secured, Matheny said. Not even for Matt Holliday, who has been the club's three-hole hitter for the last four seasons, or Matt Carpenter, one of the game's most productive leadoff hitters since 2013.

"When I told you guys I'm not married to one particular idea, it's 100 percent true," Matheny said. "I don't have this idea that it has to look like this, or this guy needs to be moved somewhere else. Put them out there. Put them in different spots. See how it looks. See how they respond. See how it comes together."

The first member of the Cardinals' projected starting rotation to make a spring appearance will be lefty Jaime Garcia, who is slated to start Friday's road game against the Astros. Another lefty, Marco Gonzales, will start the following day against the Marlins.

The Cardinals will slowly get additional starting pitchers involved after that. If the Cardinals want to give Adam Wainwright four starts leading up to his Opening Day outing, he may not make his first Grapefruit League until as late as March 9.

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