Cards likely to feature better bench, platoons in playoffs

Cards likely to feature better bench, platoons in playoffs

CHICAGO -- When general manager John Mozeliak sits down with the Major League staff in Arizona later this week to script out the team's playoff roster, expect debate about selecting the proper 25 and also talk about how to maximize the position players carried. The Cardinals could conceivably enter October using a platoon at as many as two positions.

Mozeliak noted that while in years past it sometimes felt like a struggle to find 25 players the Cardinals felt willing to use in the postseason, this year paring down the roster to that number could be the challenge. That will likely be the case with the bullpen, as the Cardinals have several different directions they could go in building a relief corps.

The Cardinals do believe they will enter October with a more potent bench than the one they featured a year ago. They were, of course, hurt in 2013 by playing the first two rounds without Allen Craig. That thrust the Cardinals' best pinch-hitter (Matt Adams) into a starting role.

Two position players who spent almost all season in Triple-A look to figure prominently on this year's roster, if recent playing time is any indication of the weeks ahead. Randal Grichuk, who joined the team in late August when Shane Robinson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, is making every start in right field against left-handed pitchers and has earned at-bats against righties sometimes, too.

That was the case on Sunday and again on Tuesday.

"At what point do you not continue to give him opportunity? That's where we are right now," manager Mike Matheny said of the Cardinals' No. 8 prospect, as ranked by MLB.com. "Right now, we like what Randal is doing, especially on the defensive side and the at-bats he's putting together."

Come postseason time, Matheny will have three outfielders -- Grichuk, Peter Bourjos and Oscar Taveras -- to plug into one open spot. Matchups and recent success will dictate who plays when.

There has also been a recent shuffle at second base. Kolten Wong continues to start against right-handers, but Pete Kozma has worked himself into more opportunities against lefties. Mozeliak wouldn't rule out the possibility of using both at second base in the playoffs.

Regardless, it looks as if Kozma will leapfrog Mark Ellis for a postseason roster spot.

"Kozma just always looks like he's in a better place offensively in September or October," Mozeliak said, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek. "He's such a pure athlete. This time of year, he just has that fresh step, fresh bounce and just looks like he belongs. Obviously, when you have expanded rosters and then you start to focus on what you might look like in October, he does look like he could be a viable part of that moving forward."

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