The Cardinals’ infield has been a bit of a mess for a few seasons (with one noteable exception of course). This year, Khalil Greene has stabilized things at short, and we’re apparently turning Skip Schumaker into a second baseman, but the real uncertainty has been at third base, as three different Cardinals (none of them with significant major league experience) compete to fill Troy Glaus’s shoes until his shoulder heals.
After one week of games, each of these three men have started at least once; in five of the seven games at least two of them played the position. On Opening Day, all three got in the game. [Note: I’m writing this before Monday night’s game.] But who are these young(ish) men? What’s a Joe Thurston and where did he come from? (Actual question I asked last Tuesday when I checked the score.) A primer, after the jump.
College: South Alabama
Games Played: 4
David came to the Cardinals from the Padres farm system, and played last year in AAA Memphis. He was widely expected to make the team as Glaus’s backup this year, and then expected to be the primary starter once Glaus was injured. However, David suffered his own injuries in a car accident before spring training that slowed him down a bit (literally, as the most significant injury was to his Achilles tendon and restricted his running). His first couple of starts this season were inauspicious, and LaRussa seems to trust Brian Barden’s defense more, but David could quite possibly develop into the steady replacement Cardinals fans are hoping for.
College: Oregon State
Games Played: 5
Brian has played short (15 games or less) stints in the majors with the Cards in 2007 and 2008, and also played briefly with Arizona in 2007. If you Google “Brian Barden Cardinals,” you will be asked “Do you mean Brian Barton Cardinals?” The answer is no, that’s someone else entirely. There was actually some debate over whether Barden should have made the opening day roster over Barton (who went to AAA), but La Russa seems to value Barden particularly as a defensive replacement — though he was the Opening Day starter, he’s been a late inning sub in the last four games. Barden also played for the US team in the 2008 Olympics, and if he and Brian Barton are ever on the active roster at the same time, it may drive me insane.
College: Sacramento Community College (CA)
Games Played: 4
Joe broke into the majors with the Dodgers in 2002, and has played very brief stints with a number of clubs (including the Phillies and the Red Sox) since then. The Cardinals signed him to a minor league contract in December, and he turned in a quietly impressive spring training. He may also be called upon to play 2B when the Skip Schumaker Experiment isn’t going well, or just to facilitate a double switch (which he’s already done once this season). He’s been the offensive leader (.500, 4 RBIs) of the group so far, though it’s early yet. I don’t have much to write about him because I still takes me a second to remember who he is every time I see his name.
Glaus won’t be back until at least mid-season, but whether one of these players winds up with the lion’s share of playing time or we continue this game of third baseman roulette (which, knowing LaRussa, is likely), at least Cardinals fans can rest assured that any of Glaus’s replacements are just as nice to look at. Now if we could get some similar offensive numbers out of someone …