Getting Ready

Craig prepares for a role in the big leagues





ST. LOUIS—When the Cardinals drafted him out of the University of California, Allen Craig was listed as a shortstop, projected as a third baseman and not really an everyday player at either. Some things never change.

"As of now, they see me as a guy who can play outfield," Craig said shortly before accepting the club's minor league player of the year award at an annual dinner in St. Louis. "I'm willing to take groundballs at third base, too. If something opens up, I'll take advantage of it."

Craig, 25, will enter his second major league spring training with a lot more opportunity than in his first—though he can thank his first for helping. Last March, Craig hit .441/.531/.667 in 27 at-bats with the big league club in Grapefruit League play. But even with an opening at third, the Cardinals didn't give Craig a look there, and he spent most of his time backing up first base.

His successful spring carried into the season, eventually, as Craig had what general manager John Mozeliak called "possibly the best seven weeks of production of anyone in the minors, anywhere." Craig hit an outstanding .405/.449/.764 in the second half of the season with Triple-A Memphis and he propelled the Redbirds to the Pacific Coast League title.

Craig hit .322/.374/.547 overall with 26 homers and 83 RBIs. He also shifted to left field in order to find a spot for his nomadic glove.

The Cardinals again have an opening at third base entering 2010, and while the club sees him as a candidate for the bench, Craig would like a shot at the hot corner. He said moving to left and ongoing work in the offseason has improved the throwing mechanic that complicated his play at third. He's been taking groundballs at third this winter, just in case. At the least, he'd like to prove he can be an option at third, in left or at first. He's already proven he can hit.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Righthanded knuckleballer Charlie Zink signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals to add depth to the Triple-A Memphis rotation. Zink went 6-15, 5.66 in 2009 with Triple-A Pawtucket.

• He has changed his name, changed his age and changed teams more times than the Cardinals can count, and yet Amaury Antonio Cazana (formerly Marti) remains in the system as a slugging left fielder. Cazana played for three teams in winter ball, after hitting .356/.417/.599 in an impressive turn in Mexico during 2009. The Cardinals 18th-round pick in 2006, the Cuba native is 35 and looking for a spot with Triple-A Memphis.