Outlook: Boggs led NL in holds, will close if needed

JUPITER, Fla. -- Rather than proceed with a closer-by-committee approach during Jason Motte's absence, manager Mike Matheny designated Mitchell Boggs as the one who will inherit the save opportunities.

Boggs slides into the role after pitching primarily as Motte's eighth-inning setup man in 2012. He thrived in that spot, leading the National League with 34 holds and ranking sixth among NL relievers with a 2.21 ERA. He lost the Cardinals a lead only three times in 78 appearances and made 23 consecutive scoreless appearances at one point.

"He did a great job last year, and it's a pretty reasonable transition," Matheny said. "That's where we'll start."

Boggs has four career saves, all of which came in 2011. He recorded saves in three straight appearances from April 20-24 before blowing a save April 26. That prompted then-manager Tony La Russa to continue spreading the opportunities around. Boggs would not close another game until July.

How long Boggs will remain a closer this time will depend both on how long Motte (mild flexor tendon strain) is sidelined and how Boggs fares with the new late-game responsibility.

"It's an opportunity, but at the same time, you don't make it more than what it is," Boggs said of stepping back into that ninth-inning role. "You continue to go out there and pitch. For me, I'll take the same approach that I took last year -- that's don't concern yourself with a role, concern yourself with what you have to do to get outs and be the best possible pitcher I can possibly be."

Motte's absence opens spot on roster

Cardinals discuss Jason Motte's injury

JUPITER, Fla. -- After weeks of wondering who would win the Cardinals' fifth rotation spot and whether the one left out would end up in the bullpen or the Minors, it appears as if both Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly will have Major League jobs on Opening Day.

Saturday's news that Jason Motte was shut down with an elbow injury brought clarity to a pitching competition that seemingly had three pitchers -- Miller, Kelly and Fernando Salas -- competing for two roster spots. With an unanticipated opening now in the bullpen, all three are expected to make the team.

"That definitely makes a different scenario for us," manager Mike Matheny said. "It puts different people in different positions. But once again, we're going to continue to finish riding out a couple more days here, watch another start, see what we have. It definitely gives a different look to it."

The Cardinals have chosen to give Miller, not Kelly, the start Monday, which would seem to indicate how they are leaning. Miller, who tossed four scoreless innings in his start Tuesday, has been strong all spring in his pitch for a rotation spot.

If Miller gets it, Kelly could then slot into a relief role; Salas would, as well. The rest of the Cardinals' projected bullpen would include Mitchell Boggs, Edward Mujica, Trevor Rosenthal, Randy Choate and Marc Rzepczynski.

"We've got a good group of guys down there in the bullpen," Motte said. "We've had guys step in year in, year out, so I don't feel like anyone is in a panic."

With Boggs taking over as the team's closer, the Cardinals still need to define how they will cover the preceding innings. Mujica and Rosenthal figure to factor into that late-inning mix. Choate will, too, though his role will continue to be left-on-left specific.

"I think we certainly have the guys out there who can step into any role, any situation and be very, very good," Boggs said. "Even without Jason, our bullpen and the guys in that bullpen are extremely good. And when we get Jason back, we'll be that much better. We have to go out and take care of business and do the things that we can control. But if we do that, there's no reason that we can't be as good as anybody in the league."

Beltran continues to sit for Cardinals

ESP@PUR: Beltran's double opens up the scoring

JUPITER, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran's return to the Cardinals' starting lineup was delayed by continued discomfort in his right toe. The injury is one that Beltran has been dealing with since being hit by a pitch Feb. 28. He played through the pain while representing Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.

Manager Mike Matheny characterized the issue as day to day, not putting a date on when Beltran was expected to return to the field.

"We feel comfortable with the at-bats he's been able to get," Matheny said. "We're going to have to hold on until he's ready to go."

Beltran said Friday that the toe was particularly bothersome when he plays right field and hits from the right side. The Cardinals do not have the flexibility of letting Beltran slot in as a designated hitter anymore either, as they want to make sure their pitchers are taking at-bats to prepare for the regular season.

Matheny dismissed concerns about the possibility that Beltran would not be ready for the start of the season. The Cardinals have six games remaining on their spring schedule before the team's April 1 opener in Arizona.

"Getting in the outfield, it's not like he needs help reading balls off the bat," Matheny said. "He just needs time to let this thing play out. It could be [Sunday]. We'll talk to him in the morning."

Wong among five players sent to Minors

STL@MIA: Wong triples to center field in the fifth

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals trimmed their spring roster to 32 after Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Marlins by reassigning five players to Minor League camp. Among them was second baseman Kolten Wong, the club's first-round Draft pick in 2011.

Wong is slated to start the season in Triple-A along with three other players who were included in this latest round of cuts -- outfielder Justin Christian, catcher J.R. Towles and right-hander Seth Maness. The fifth player sent out, catcher Audry Perez, is headed to Double-A Springfield.

Because the team prioritized getting work for Matt Carpenter and Daniel Descalso at second base this spring, Wong was limited to 28 at-bats. He hit .285 but left his biggest impression on defense, which, manager Mike Matheny said, was noticeably improved from a year ago.

"He's a player that's closer, without question," Matheny said. "I saluted him and the Minor League staff. [Double-A manager] Mike Shildt and his staff last year, the effort he put in certainly was worth the effort. He came back a better defensive player, without question. Just watching him move around the bag, watching how he was turning, watching his first step, his instincts."

Maness, the organization's pitcher of the year in 2012, also left a strong impression during his first invite to Major League Spring Training. In seven Grapefruit League innings, Maness allowed eight hits and three runs and struck out seven. He walked only one.

Maness is projected to pitch in the Triple-A rotation.

"He's just not somebody that's talked about that much, even though he was the organization pitcher of the year. But he showed me a lot this spring," Matheny said. "I told him to just keep doing what he's doing. He's got a bright future with the way that he can make a pitch."

Worth noting

• The Cardinals will have Miller start Monday's game against the Twins. Kelly is scheduled to follow Miller in relief. Both pitchers continue to be built up as starters, and one will take the team's final rotation spot.

• St. Louis officially moved Rafael Furcal to the disabled list. Furcal had season-ending elbow surgery last week. If the Cardinals need to open up a spot on the 40-man roster, they could shift Furcal to the 60-day DL. Right now, that roster holds 38 players.

• Following his stint catching for Team Puerto Rico, Yadier Molina returned to the field in a Cardinals uniform Saturday. Molina went 2-for-3 with an RBI before being removed for a pinch-hitter in the sixth. This marked Molina's first Grapefruit League appearance since March 2.