JUPITER, Fla. -- Though the Cardinals don't officially commence Spring Training until manager Mike Matheny runs the team's first workouts for pitchers and catchers on Tuesday, the battle for the team's final rotation spots has already begun.
With Chris Carpenter's indefinite absence, the Cardinals have two rotation spots up for grabs and four candidates to select from. Lance Lynn, who has reported to camp significantly slimmed down, is on the inside track for one of those two jobs. Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal are expected to compete for the other.
"It's great," said Kelly, who threw a bullpen session on Monday morning. "If we all stick together, it will be fun to see what happens. I'm best friends with all these young guys. We push each other to make each other better."
The Cardinals' evaluation process of these young pitchers is multi-fold. The club will take into consideration what each of the three did in varying roles last year, which is one reason why Lynn, an 18-game winner in 2012, is in line to return to the rotation.
As for the other three, Kelly has the longest big league resume. Last season, he made 16 starts, 10 of which were quality starts, while logging 107 innings. Rosenthal shined in a bullpen role during his time with the Cardinals. Miller wasn't brought to the Majors until September, though he was especially impressive during the one start he made.
But the decision won't solely be based on the past, just as it won't be made exclusively on upside.
"I'm excited to watch them compete," Matheny said. "When you throw athletes into a situation like this and you put pressure on them, that's usually when they rise to the top."
That evaluation process, Matheny said, began the moment those young pitchers parked their cars and lugged their gear into the Spring Training clubhouse. Knowing that there is an advantage in being seen, each of the three also reported to camp earlier than required.
"Especially the young guys trying to make an impression – you're being evaluated every single second that you're here," Matheny said. "Somebody is looking."
Carpenter to stay in St. Louis, not visit camp
JUPITER, Fla. -- Despite lobbying efforts by teammates and manager Mike Matheny, Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter said on Monday that he does not intend to make an appearance at the team's Spring Training facility.
Carpenter cited several factors in his decision to stay away, including his fear that he could become a distraction among his teammates who are preparing for the season. He also noted that by staying in St. Louis, he can keep the needed narrow focus on getting his arm healthy.
"Right now, in my mind, I'm not ready to do that," Carpenter said of reporting to Jupiter, Fla. "I'm not ready not to mentor kids. I always want to be a part of this organization, and hopefully when it's all said and done I will have the opportunity to come back and be a part of it. … But in my mind right now, I need to figure out what's going on because mentally, it's tough. That's all I can say."
Carpenter had to halt his throwing program on Feb. 1 after the discomfort and aching nerve sensation that hindered him in 2012 returned. Since then, Matheny said he has been in contact with Carpenter and has encouraged the 37-year-old right-hander to consider joining the Cardinals in camp.
"I keep hounding on him about it. We just want to see him," Matheny said on Monday, the report date for Cardinals pitchers and catchers. "He's a guy who, every time he's around, he brings value. I'd love to have him here. But where he is right now, it's not an easy situation to know how to handle. He needs to do the right thing, which is first, invest in himself and his family. I think [his wife] Alyson and the kids will let him know when it's time."
Though Carpenter missed much of the 2012 season, he did spend a considerable amount of time around the clubhouse. He was in Jupiter, Fla., for most of Spring Training and was around for home series during the regular season. In August, he resumed traveling with the team on the road.
Whether or not Carpenter will return as a regular clubhouse presence once the regular season begins is not yet known. Among the only plans he has thus far is to figure out his medical situation and go on spring break vacation with his children.
"It's definitely disappointing to have somebody who has been such a huge part of this team not be able to participate," starter Jake Westbrook said. "It was a little bit of a kick in the gut, and he's definitely going to be missed. Not just because of the type of pitcher he is, but just the kind of teammate he is and what he brings to this organization. It's definitely a loss."
Registration for ticket packages open until Friday
ST. LOUIS -- Registration for two specific ticket packages -- Premium Flex Packs and Opening Day Flex Packs -- opened last week and will continue until 5 p.m. CT on Friday.
These two packages allow fans the opportunity to purchase tickets to some of the high-demand home games during 2013. The Opening Day package includes a ticket to the team's April 8 home opener against the Reds, and a minimum ticket purchase of two other home games during the season.
With the Premium Flex Packs, fans are able to purchase tickets to one of six premium games -- June 1 vs. Giants, June 22 vs. Rangers, Aug. 9 vs. Cubs, Aug. 10 vs. Cubs, Sept. 27 vs. Cubs and Sept. 28 vs. Cubs -- plus a minimum of any two additional games. Those additional ticket purchases cannot include other premium dates or Opening Day.
The winners selected through this registration process will be notified on Feb. 19 and can then begin making their purchases at 10 a.m. CT on Feb. 20. A maximum of eight tickets can be purchased per person.
Full-season ticket plans, 40-game share-a-seat plans and the 10-game Opening Day pack are already on sale at cardinals.com. Individual tickets will go on sale at a later date.
• Several of the Cardinals' legends are scheduled to assist with instruction again this spring, including: Willie McGee, Ozzie Smith, Jim Edmonds, Whitey Herzog, Lou Brock and Red Schoendienst. Matheny said there's a chance that Bruce Sutter also makes an appearance. Bob Gibson, however, is not among those expected to make it to camp this year.
• Though position players are not required to report to Jupiter until Thursday, Matt Carpenter has already been working out at the Cardinals' complex for a week in order to get a head start on competing for a job at second base.
Carpenter said that he and infield coach Jose Oquendo have spent about 90 minutes on the field each day doing drills and working on footwork. That doesn't include the daily time the two spend watching video and talking about the nuances of playing that position.
• Matheny said that the club will not alter its pitching plans in order to compensate for a condensed workout schedule this spring. Though Spring Training is longer due to the World Baseball Classic tournament in March, clubs actually have fewer workout days in advance of the start of game play. Some pitchers may throw one fewer session of live batting practice than normal because of the change.
• According to a club official, non-roster pitcher Carlos Martinez was having visa issues in the Dominican Republic and may not arrive in Jupiter before the team's first workout on Tuesday. The club is also concerned that some of its position players could be held up by similar visa problems later this week.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.