Cardinals youth movement ahead of 2008 pace

We are just over a month into the 2009 season and the St. Louis Cardinals have already employed the services of ten rookies, the most in the Major Leagues. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and San Diego Padres are next, having both deployed nine rookies to this point.

The difference is in the bottom line as neither of the other clubs have a winning record. The second-place Angels came into Saturday at .500 in the American League West, while the woeful Padres, coming off a 99-loss season, are four games under .500 in the National League West.

Seven of the ten rookies are currently still with the Cardinals and five of the ten made their Major League debuts this season. Six rookies were on the Opening Day roster for the club.

Rookie position players Brian Barden, Colby Rasmus (pictured) and Joe Thurston along with pitcher Jason Motte opened the 2009 season with the club and remain there.

They were later joined by pitcher Mitchell Boggs, infielder Tyler Greene and outfielder Shane Robinson.

The three rookies now in Triple-A are third baseman David Freese and reliever Josh Kinney, both of whom were on the Opening Day roster, and starting pitcher P.J. Walters, who was called up and later returned to Memphis.

The five who made their first Major League appearance this year have been Freese, Greene, Rasmus, Robinson and Walters.

Rookies have taken 1/4 of all the at-bats for St. Louis this season at 26% (265 of 1034 ABs) and are hitting a combined .242 (64-for-265). Rookie pitchers have made four starts and thrown 43 2/3 IP.

That makes 16 Cardinals first-timers to have arrived on the scene over the last season plus one month, as 11 Cardinals rookies made their MLB debuts in 2008. They are Kyle McClellan, Brian Barton, Rico Washington, Mike Parisi, Chris Perez, Joe Mather, Boggs, Nick Stavinoha, Jaime Garcia, Mark Worrell and Motte.

That was the largest number of first-timers to don the Cardinals uniform in any single season since the second year of the Tony La Russa era, which began in St. Louis in 1996. 12 players debuted in 1997.

2009 offers a decent chance to exceed the 2008 mark as at this point last year, only four of the 11 had been called up – McClellan, Barton, Washington and Parisi.