Cardinals giving Tyler Greene chance to win 2B job
JUPITER, Fla. (AP)
St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak would like to see Tyler Greene take over for Skip Schumaker as the team's regular second baseman. First-year manager Mike Matheny isn't ready to commit to the switch.
''I'm trying not to have any preconceived ideas what that is going to look like over there,'' Matheny said. ''Who's going to be in that particular spot? We just don't know yet. I'm going to stand behind that and try to fight any prejudice or any favor in any one direction at this point.''
A first-round selection out of Georgia Tech in 2005, Greene has yet to earn consistent playing time in the major leagues. A shortstop most of his career, he has been asked to try third base and the outfield over the past couple of springs.
''It's really about taking someone who is really talented - has a unique skill set in the sense of speed and power - and giving him an opportunity at a starting job,'' Mozeliak said. ''It is something that we are trying to do with the understanding that he still has to earn it.''
Second base is the only starting position up for grabs in Cardinals camp as the team prepares to defend its 2011 World Series championship.
A career .270 hitter in the minors, Greene smacked 85 home runs and stole 144 bases in a little more than 600 games. Those numbers have yet to translate into major league success.
He's never hit more than .222 in any of his three big league seasons, maxing out at 122 plate appearances in a year.
Greene actually got a start on the transition last season when 25 of his 58 appearances came at second base, including 14 starts. The organization's decision to give him the opportunity to win the job has allowed Greene to focus on the most difficult aspect of the change - turning the double play.
''That's where the footwork and the body turns and everything are kind of flip-flopped from the other side,'' he said. ''It's the complete opposite from the other side. I've really been working on that every day, just to get that much more comfortable.''
Schumaker understands what it's like to try to learn second base at the major league level. Three years ago, his transition from the outfield to second base was former manager Tony La Russa's grand spring experiment.
A career .290 hitter, Schumaker has committed 32 errors in 351 games at second base since the move.
''I think they are going to give Tyler every opportunity to win the job and if he ends up putting everything together, it's exciting for our team,'' said Schumaker, who avoided arbitration by signing a two-year contract with the Cardinals in December that will pay him a base salary of more than a million dollars less per season than he made in 2011.
''I've always been a utility guy in my opinion. I've played just as many outfield innings as I have infield innings. I'll be ready to play every single day. If I'm in the lineup, I'll be ready. If I'm not, I'll be ready in the seventh inning as a defensive replacement in the outfield or wherever it is.''
After using Daniel Descalso as a defensive replacement for David Freese at third base last year, the Cardinals are also asking Descalso to spend more time at second, his natural position, this spring.
''I don't think anybody wants to be the utility guy, especially early in their career, but that's a role that every team needs to have filled,'' Descalso said. ''Somebody has to do it, so I was more than willing to do that job last year.''