Key spring position battles

Examining top contenders, favorites for four open starting jobs

Updated: February 24, 2014, 12:12 PM ET
By Paul Swydan | ESPN Insider

Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesCarlos Martinez heads into spring training with a shot at winning the Cardinals' fifth starter job.

Most of spring training is meaningless. Players talk in empty platitudes with phrases such as "best shape of my life," and managers talk in similarly empty language with often-repeated lines such as "needing to be more aggressive on the basepaths." The stats rarely, if ever, translate to regular-season action, because for much of the time players are either facing inferior competition or fine-tuning parts of their game rather than full-on competing. It can turn the excitement of a new season into a slog.

However, in most spring camps there will be at least a few roster spots up for grabs, and these bright spots make spring training worthy of our attention. As spring games kick off this week, here's a look at four of the more prominent battles we will be closely watching along with which player or players have the edge.


Team: St. Louis Cardinals

Position: Fifth starting pitcher

Contenders: Joe Kelly, Carlos Martinez

This is a classic case of incumbent versus challenger -- except that it isn't. With the shocking news (read: not even a little shocking) that Jaime Garcia is still having shoulder problems, the fifth spot in the Cardinals' rotation is once again up for grabs, and the chief competitors for it are Kelly and Martinez.