Cardinals Opening Day roster has 3 likely surprises

The St. Louis Cardinals will have some surprises on their Opening Day roster.

The Cardinals were working out on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis, in preparation for a festive Opening Day.

The club has high expectations for a championship run in 2022 under new manager, Oliver Marmol. It seems like a lot to take in with the return of Albert Pujols for a final run with the team where he started it all and the celebration of Yadier Molina’s final season as a player with the club he’s spent his entire career.

Pujols says he just wants to win another championship with the Cardinals but he also has several potential records he could break with the team. Breaking records in a Cardinals uniform will hold a lot of extra sentiment for Pujols.

Molina and Adam Wainwright will have their 306th start as a battery on Thursday. The two will likely pass the record of 316 games started held by Warren Spahn and Del Crandall.

Cardinals Opening Day roster: 3 surprises

Jordan Hicks

The Cardinals announced Wednesday that Hicks will be team’s fifth starter. Hicks has only pitched 10 innings for the Cardinals since 2019, according to reporting from  Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Hicks opted out of the 2020 COVID-19 season due to health concerns related to being a Type I diabetic. He had a shortened 2021 season due to an elbow concern.

Hicks did get some work in the Arizona Fall League.

Goold reported Hicks will start against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday. He is likely to go three innings and get stretched out from there. Hicks seemed excited and ready for the challenge.

Andrew Knizner

As noted, this is Molina’s final season as a player with the Cardinals. According to John Denton of MLB.com, Marmol has spoken with Molina about catching less and giving Knizner a shot at playing more as he is expected to take the reigns as catcher next season. This will allow Knizner to get in more work with the pitching staff and, more importantly, get him some at-bats. It will be important to build up Knizner’s confidence to take over under Molina’s helpful eye.

Andre Pallante

Pallante, 23, made the opening day roster as a bullpen arm. He was the Cardinals’ fourth-round pick in the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft. After excelling in the Arizona Fall League, he was a non-roster invitee this Spring Training. He continued impressing.

During the spring, Pallante threw in three games, finishing one with a save. In 13 batters faced, he gave up only one hit, one walk, and struck out four.

Pallante will fall into Marmol’s plans for using matchups. In order to stay with St. Louis after May 2, when rosters are reduced from 28-man to 26-man, he will need to continue to impress. It will be interesting to see if he gets some work on the days Hicks starts. Pallante could enter into a piggyback or long-relief situation.