During spring training, teams have the option of using a designated hitter. The Cardinals have used the DH to give position players an extra at bat, with most of those AB’s going to Juan Gonzalez. As the season approaches, Tony LaRussa has done the DH to give his pitchers some at bats this spring.
Now the biggest test for Gonzalez is going to come in the last couple of weeks of spring training as he tries to prove he can still play the field. Gonzalez had a good day at the plate yesterday while playing right field, collecting two hits to bring his average to .308 in the Cardinal’s 3-1 loss to Atlanta.
Gonzalez who came to Cardinals camp under the recommendation of Albert Pujols came out like gang busters early, but has slowed a bit at the plate. He homered in his first at bat of the spring off of Johan Santana. The outfield picture is still cloudy, but with the improved play of Brian Barton, it may make it tough for Gonzalez to make the team.
So far, the Cards have Duncan, Ankiel, and Ryan Ludwick. With his strong spring, it looks like Skip Schumaker will start the season in St. Louis. The decision may come down to Barton or Gonzalez. If I had to pick, I’d go with youth and choose Barton. The Cards just unloaded veteran Jim Edmonds, Juan Encarnacion is out with an injury, but has been labeled as lazy by some fans…why keep another aging defensive liability in Gonzalez? He played one game in right field for Cleveland in 2005 and just 29 games in right in 2004 for Kansas City. I think if anything, Gonzalez may be auditioning for an American League team in need of a DH. Unless Barton slumps terribly in the last two weeks or Chris Duncan’s back gives out, (he’s been out a week with a stiff back) I think Juan is gone.