Cards window is open, but they need to work toward the future

While Cardinals fans have good reason to feel good about the 2010 season…and the window of opportunity for the next two years appears wide open…there are concerns on the horizon that the club must address this season.

The starting eight is under control of the club for two seasons, and we can reasonably expect that group…health willing…to score a bunch of runs and play great defense through 2011.

Adam Wainwright is in his prime and should be a key performer for the foreseeable future.Kyle Lohse, if healthy, should be fine as a number three starter for the next couple of years.

The concern comes beyond what we’ve listed.Chris Carpenter turns 35


in April, and has missed significant time in his career with shoulder and elbow maladies.31 year-old Brad Penny is on a one year contract, and he’s a guy that has had a rough injury history, too.Closer Ryan Franklin just turned 37


, and appeared to fade down the stretch in 2009.

Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan face a fine balance this season.While winning, they also need to look ahead.Like they did with Wainwright and have done with Kyle McLellan, they need to prime pitchers to take over key roles in future years.

Jaime Garcia, the nominal number-five starter, needs to be groomed this year as a reliable starter for the future.It would benefit the Cardinals if they could determine that McLellan was a long-term answer as a setup man.And if not, having Jason Motte set up and get some save opportunities would help him work toward eventually closing.

The Cards have another intriguing pitcher in former first-round pick Adam Ottavino.If there should be an injury in the rotation, seeing and evaluating him would be a great benefit.Some observers think Ottavino has a Carpenter-like makeup.

So as the Cardinals roll to a division title in 2010, they need to look ahead to the future and prepare Garcia and Ottavino for the rotation, McLellan for his ultimate role, and Motte for the closer’s role.