JUPITER, Fla. -- By the time manager Mike Matheny unveiled the team's Opening Day roster plans this past weekend, the suspense had already faded. Roles had been settled and standout spring performers had made their impressions, all of which left the Cardinals ready to finalize a roster that had appeared mostly set for weeks.
It all seemed so straightforward … until it wasn't. Before the Cardinals could even get to Opening Day, plans changed. Thursday's announcement that Trevor Rosenthal (right lat strain) would open the season on the 10-day disabled list forced a last-minute change to the bullpen. Out is Rosenthal. In, at least temporarily, is Sam Tuivailala.
In the end, though, the Cardinals' 25-man roster features few surprises. Looking back at MLB.com's roster projection before Spring Training, 22 of the 25 players listed will indeed be on the team's Opening Day roster. Of the three who won't, two (Alex Reyes and Rosenthal) landed on the disabled list. The other (Tommy Pham) was outplayed by Jose Martinez.
While the Cardinals didn't come to camp with many holes to fill, a few specific spring developments brought early clarity to the team's roster situation.
The first came before the club held its first full-squad workout. News that Reyes would need Tommy John surgery simplified the team's pitching decisions. It meant that Wacha had the clear path back into the rotation, and it helped Socolovich and Bowman both find spots in the bullpen.
Wacha's spring showing was impactful, too. The Cardinals were committed to giving Rosenthal a chance to showcase as a starter, and they saw some good things from Gant. But Wacha put to rest any talk about someone else taking the last open spot in the rotation, alleviating concern about his shoulder strength.
The biggest surprise of camp, though, has to be Martinez, a Minor League journeyman who finally broke into the Majors' last September and now finds himself heading back there. Martinez leapfrogged Pham on the depth chart and finished with more hits (19) and RBIs (15) than any other Cardinal in Grapefruit League play.
Martinez enhanced his value by playing first base, in addition to the outfield, and Pham, who hit .209/.329/.279, never generated much offensive momentum. By mid-March it had become clear that Martinez, not Pham, would open the season as the team's fourth outfielder.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.