Its a possibility Chris Carpenter might not be ready for opening day due to his stiff neck. The Cardinals probably want to be cautious with Carp considering he pitched 273 innings last year including the postseason. They don't want to wear him out early in the year because they'll need a healthy Carpenter later on. Its also possible that Carpenter is ready for opening day, but he will have a light workload in spring training. For what its worth Carpenter said he felt good in his first workout Wednesday since he had neck stiffness.
If Carp isn't ready for opening day, it looks like Lance Lynn is Plan B this year. Kyle McClellan was Plan B last year when Adam Wainwright went down, but he wore down in the second half last year. This year Mike Matheny plans on using McClellan exclusively out of the bullpen. Lynn was a starter in the minor leagues before being called up last year to be a reliever. Lynn did a pretty good job as a reliever last year, but was hurt most of September. He was left of the Division Series roster, but came back for the NLCS and pitched well. He was roughed up a bit in the World Series though.
Lynn is rated one of the Cardinals top ten prospects and is technically still a rookie for 2012. He could be a decent middle of the rotation starter, but doesn't have an ace ceiling. Its got to be tempting to call up 2009 #1 pick Shelby Miller if another starter goes down or Lynn isn't effective as a starter. Lynn did pitch well in his spring start yesterday pitching 3 scoreless innings. While Lynn has good stuff, he doesn't have ace potential like Miller does. Miller has four good pitches and will start the season in Triple A. Miller has also looked good in spring training, and its a matter of time before he makes the big leagues. At the very least he'll be called up in September and be ready to take over for Jake Westbrook or Kyle Lohse in 2013. For now, Lynn is the backup plan though because the Cardinals sent Miller down to the minor league camp Wednesday.
The Cardinals have 3 way battle for the second base job this year. Soon, this will be 2011 # 1 pick Kolten Wong's job, but not for another season or two. Skip Schumaker has been the primary starter for the last 3 years but Matheny has said he plans on using Skip as a super utility player in 2012. Skip will probably still play some second, alot of outfield, and pinch hit. Daniel Descalso is also in the running and may get some time at second. Descalso is the best defensive player of the three, and is also the backup for third baseman David Freese. Tyler Greene is also getting a shot at the job, and has stole 3 bases so far including a double steal of which Greene stole home and Descalso stealing second. I hope Greene can win the job since he can steal bases. It would add a new dimension to the Cardinals offense. Its likely Greene will play a bigger role this year anyway since he's Plan B if Rafeal Furcal gets hurt. Given Furcal's injury history I expect to see Greene at short at times this year as well. Non roster invite Alex Cora might make the club, but he's not a guy you want in the lineup everyday.
Finally, Matt Adams has been a beast in camp this year. He's been hitting well in spring training this year and is the Cardinals first baseman of the future. Obviously, he will start the season in Triple A this year. This a guy who needs to play everyday so he's not in contention for a backup outfield/first base job. Allen Craig is likely to be fourth outfielder/first baseman when healthy. Schumaker,and either Adron Chambers or Eric Komatsu are slated for the other backup outfielders. Chambers and Komatsu also would add a element of speed to the team, although in a bench role. But if anything happens to Lance Berkman or one of the corner outfielders, Adams could get the call up this year.