CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals' top four Minor League affiliates open their respective seasons on Thursday, and rosters for four teams have been released by the organization. Here are some highlights:
Triple-A Memphis: The Memphis club will be led by its outfielders -- top prospect Oscar Taveras, Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk. Grichuk is expected to play a lot of center field, while Taveras and Piscotty will fill the corner-outfield spots. Boone Whiting will make the Opening Day start for the Triple-A team, which will also have Angel Castro, Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons and Scott McGregor in the rotation.
Double-A Springfield: Three of the Cardinals' Top 20 prospects, as ranked by MLBPipeline.com, will begin the year in Double-A. That group includes reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year Zach Petrick, Patrick Wisdom and James Ramsey. Also playing in the Springfield infield will be Aledmys Diaz, the 23-year-old Cuban shortstop who signed with the organization on March 9.
Advanced A Palm Beach: Marco Gonzales, the organization's top pick from the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, stands out as one to watch on the Palm Beach roster. Michael Mayers, taken two rounds after Gonzales, will also be on the pitching staff. Right-hander Joe Cuda and left-hander Kyle Hald will join Gonzales in the rotation. Position players Charlie Tilson and Starlin Rodriguez should help key the offense.
Low A Peoria: This roster is highlighted by pitcher Alex Reyes and catcher Carson Kelly, both of whom are considered top prospects in the organization. Reyes, 19, will be challenged in his first chance to play on a full-season professional team. Kelly, who made the conversion from third baseman to catcher beginning last September, will get his first extended opportunity to work behind the plate.
Cardinals look to break out against left-handers
CINCINNATI -- For all the praise heaped upon the Cardinals' offense in 2013 -- a group that hit .330 with runners in scoring position and led the league in runs scored by a margin of 77 -- the unit's futility against left-handed pitching remained as prevalent a topic as any when the organization transitioned into offseason mode last fall.
It was one of the reasons the Cardinals targeted a right-handed-hitting shortstop in Jhonny Peralta as they went to fill that hole. Peter Bourjos, acquired for his expected defensive contributions, also added a right-handed bat to the mix. With three other key right-handed hitters in the middle of the lineup, the Cardinals expect their results against lefties to be much improved in 2014.
Cincinnati's Tony Cingrani will give the organization its first chance to test that theory on Wednesday. Pittsburgh's Francisco Liriano looms on Saturday. The two combined to go 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA against the Cardinals last season.
"It's obviously a conversation that we had, and some of the moves we made were focused around trying to fill some of the gaps," manager Mike Matheny said. "There is a gap there. Once again, I don't completely get why. But it's something that has been too obvious not to try and change."
The Cardinals faced a left-handed starter in 42 regular-season games last season and won just 19. Compared to the slash line of .280/.343/.412 that the offense registered against right-handers, the Cardinals hit .238/.301/.371 against southpaws. The team's OPS (.755 to .672) was also considerably lower.
After batting Kolten Wong in the second spot of the batting order on Monday, Matheny moved Peralta to that spot versus Cingrani. It's a likely spot for the shortstop in games where the Cardinals face a left-hander. Matheny moved the left-handed-hitting Wong lower in the order and was able to break up his left-handed bats despite doing so.
"I think it's going to dramatically change," Matheny said of the trend. "It's optimism and hopeful, but I think our approach, in general, is very consistent whether it's against left-handed or right. I think it's just a matter of time until guys put together the kind of approach consistently against lefties that they are against the right-handers."
• FOX Sports Midwest announced that Monday's season opener was the highest-rated road opener in station history. The afternoon game drew an 11.1 rating from Nielsen Media Research, up from the 10.3 registered for last year's season opener in Arizona. According to FOX Sports Midwest, the game broadcast was also the most-watched program on television in St. Louis on Monday.
• The Cardinals announced that it will host the 5th annual Cardinals Care 6K and one-mile fun run on Sept. 7, 2014, with the Stan Musial statue outside Busch Stadium marking the starting point of the race. Registration has opened, and participants are asked to raise at least $75 to be donated to Cardinals Care, which distributes funds to St. Louis area non-profit organization whose work benefits children. For more information, visit cardinals.com/6K.
• Wednesday's scheduled baseball game between the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois at Busch Stadium was postponed because of weather and has been rescheduled for April 23 at 6:30 p.m. CT.
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.