5 questions Cards must answer before opener

5 questions Cards must answer before opener

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Two weeks from Thursday, the Cardinals will play an afternoon game against the Yankees and then board a flight for Pittsburgh, where, three days later, the team will open Major League Baseball's season. The countdown is on.

But while much of Spring Training may be in the rearview mirror, there remain roster spots up for grabs and ongoing evaluations. Here is a look at five questions still to be answered between now and the Cardinals' impending departure from Florida:

Who will emerge as the starting shortstop?

The thumb injury to Jhonny Peralta added an unexpected wrinkle to the Cardinals' plans, as they're now in a race against the clock to determine whether Aledmys Diaz is Major League ready or if Jedd Gyorko is defensively capable to handle a position he only began playing last year. Look for the two to continue sharing time at short for the next two weeks and for the Cardinals to also weigh potential external stopgaps as they brace for playing until at least June without Peralta.

Can Yadier Molina get enough at-bats?

Molina has caught parts of four games already and has regained enough strength in his surgically repaired left thumb to take batting practice. However, he has yet to take a swing against an opponent and, with 13 games left on the team's spring schedule, the opportunities to do so are dwindling. Still, if Molina does not incur any setbacks, the expectation is that he'll begin taking true game at-bats in the coming days. And that should be enough for Molina to prove himself ready for Opening Day.

Will Matt Holliday be ready to play first base?

After a winter of work at first base, Holliday continues to start regularly at that position, which he had not previously played. That's by design, as the Cardinals want to see whether they can consider Holliday as a first-base option once the season opens. Holliday has not had many defensive chances there this spring, which makes it only more likely that he'll continue getting starts at first over the next two weeks. His versatility would open the door for Tommy Pham to get more frequent starts in the outfield.

Who takes the final spot in the bullpen?

With Jordan Walden having a strong spring thus far, the Cardinals appear to have six of their seven bullpen spots filled. Of the several candidates the Cardinals could consider for that final opening, two -- Tyler Lyons and Matthew Bowman -- have particularly unique circumstances. Lyons is out of options, and Bowman is with the organization as a Rule 5 pick, meaning that either could be lost by the organization if not on the Opening Day roster. Both would give the Cardinals a long relief option they currently lack.

What will become of Brandon Moss and Matt Adams?

Moss' two-run blast

Camp opened with the expectation that Moss and Adams would wrestle for regular-season playing time at first base. Now, with Holliday a part of that defensive mix, it's unclear how many at-bats may be available to Moss or Adams when the season opens. Moss has eight hits (four for extra bases) in 24 spring at-bats, while Adams is 4-for-18 with three extra-base hits. How the two finish in Grapefruit League play will help the Cardinals determine any time share plans.

Jenifer Langosch has been a reporter with MLB.com since 2007, first covering the Pirates and now the Cardinals.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.