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Questions about the order were overshadowed at times by McGwire's hiring. Big Mac was brought in after the Cardinals went 4-for-30 with runners in scoring position while getting swept in the first round of the playoffs. McGwire has patiently answered all questions about his doping days, though he will surely face more scrutiny when the season begins.
The rotation could be one of baseball's best, anchored by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
Carpenter was 17-4 and led the NL with a 2.24 ERA, returning to dominance after missing nearly all the previous two seasons. He was second in the NL Cy Young balloting, just ahead of Wainwright, who was 19-9 and led the NL with 233 innings while working six or more innings in 26 consecutive starts.
Wainwright likened Carpenter to a shark and said he just followed that lead.
"I'm like a remora, always looking for useful tidbits that he drops," Wainwright said. "He's always filled with knowledge and he's a good teacher, too."
The bottom three has plenty of promise. Hard-throwing Brad Penny got a free agent deal off a strong finish with the Giants, Kyle Lohse was 6-10 in an injury plagued season but has had a healthy spring and was a 15-game winner in '08, and rookie left-hander Jaime Garcia won a three-way battle for the fifth spot.
The Cardinals wanted Garcia to get more minor league seasoning coming off reconstructive elbow surgery that sidelined him most of last season. But he proved he was ready.
Closer Ryan Franklin was a first-time All-Star at age 36 last year with an ERA that hovered around 1 most of the year, and though he tired in the final month was 38-for-43 in save situations. Kyle McClellan, who had in the running for the fifth starting spot, returns to the bullpen and could become the setup man.
"Whatever role, it will be a valuable role," McClellan said.
Holliday (right side) missed two weeks of spring training and Pujols' back briefly flared up, but both were in the lineup as the spring schedule wound down. The lone lineup concern entering the opener April 5 at Cincinnati was catcher Yadier Molina (right side), who was not expected to miss much time if any.
"Generally, most of the guys that were feeling something are feeling better," La Russa said.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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