Before Thursday afternoon's final spring training contest between the Cardinals and Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium, infielder Ed Lucas was told he had made the team. But after being hit in the eighth inning of the Marlins' 6-4 victory over St. Louis, Lucas will begin the year on the disabled list.
After spending ten years in the minor leagues, Lucas was given an opportunity with Miami last year. In 94 games, Lucas batted .256 while getting on base at a .311 clip. While Lucas' versatility earned him a spot in the lineup for most of the season, he was notably effective against left-handed pitching, having averaged .330 in 106 at-bats.
Despite the fact that he wasn't going to open the season as one of Miami's starting infielders, the loss of Lucas subtracts depth from Manager Mike Redmond's bench. Lucas had a solid spring, and was expected to be a valuable asset in pinch hitting situations.
Defensively, Lucas' versatility likely factored into the organization's decision to keep him on the Major League roster-he can play every infield position and will be placed on the 15-day DL with second baseman Rafael Furcal.
In place of Lucas, Donovan Solano, who because of Lucas' progress was told before Thursday's contest that he would begin 2014 in Triple-A New Orleans, will open the season with the Marlins and fill the need for a utility infielder. Jeff Baker may be used in a similar way, but should Redmond decide to bench Garrett Jones against lefties, Baker (like Casey McGehee) can play the position.
Solano was battling for the spot that was going to be given to Lucas, and his spring performance forced a late decision to be made. In 2013 as Miami's starting second baseman, Solano batted .249 with 34 RBIs. At times in his brief Major League career, Solano has appeared lost at the plate. But the hope is that if he isn't in the lineup every day, his approach and patience at the plate will improve.
With Furcal and Lucas set to open the year on the DL, the Marlins have lost infield depth. Both Furcal and Lucas are hopeful that their absences won't be lengthy, but with Derek Dietrich and Solano replacing them, respectively, the Marlins aren't losing much.