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Versatile Carpenter dealing with back tightness

Wacha eyes 200 innings, but Cards will be cautious; Ozzie at camp
Special to MLB.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- With tightness in his back, Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter won't be moving around the infield a whole lot, especially at the beginning of Spring Training, which starts in earnest for position players Monday.

He could become a fixture at first base for the Cardinals this season, but the 32-year-old veteran is flexible. It's his versatility that makes him a valuable commodity in St. Louis.

JUPITER, Fla. -- With tightness in his back, Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter won't be moving around the infield a whole lot, especially at the beginning of Spring Training, which starts in earnest for position players Monday.

He could become a fixture at first base for the Cardinals this season, but the 32-year-old veteran is flexible. It's his versatility that makes him a valuable commodity in St. Louis.

Cardinals Spring Training information

Manager Mike Matheny said that while the seven-year St. Louis staple will get most reps at first base, he would also utilize the crafty lifetime .277 hitter at third base and even some at second base as well.

However, the majority of Carpenter's concentration will be at first base, a position he began to grow accustomed to last season. Carpenter played in a career-high 120 games at first last season. He committed just seven errors during that time while posting a fielding percentage of .993.

"It's just how things are shaking out right now," Matheny said of Carpenter's situation.

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One of the early birds to Spring Training, Carpenter has put in extra work to be ready for the season.

"It's tough to tell, every year is different," said Carpenter, who has played in 452 games at third, as opposed to 214 at first and another 201 at second. "Most seasons I really don't stay in one spot. We plan for all of it and adjust as we go. I think the plan is to get a few reps at every spot."

But he found a home at first base last season.

Video: Matt Carpenter is the No. 9 first baseman right now

"I enjoyed it," Carpenter said. "I enjoy every spot I play."

But first base is special to Carpenter, who said he feels involved in every play.

"There's a lot more going on and you're involved in every throw that's an out," he said. "That's fun."

Video: Mike Matheny discusses Cards' corner infield options

Wacha wants 200 innings

Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha is looking beyond his shoulder problems and wants to be the workhorse of the staff.

That's a lofty goal; Wacha's career high is 181 1/3 innings logged during his All-Star season of 2015.

Matheny remains guardedly optimistic.

"We want our guys to achieve the things that they want," Matheny said before Sunday's workout. "[Wacha] wants to throw 200 innings for this ballclub. He keeps answering the bell every day. But it's always going to come back to the medical team. If he keeps measuring out well and looks great on the mound, why would we limit him?"

Video: Outlook: Wacha can ride improvements in K/9

Matheny knows that the Cardinals must be smart with the 6-foot-6, 215-pounder.

"We have to use our history and understand that he had some issues in the past, and how can we avoid them," Matheny said. "But I don't ever want to get away from what these guys are working so hard for.

"Michael has been working all winter long to be the guy that takes that ball and be the kind of pitcher that we believe he can be, which is a front line, front of any rotation's starter. I'm anxious to watch him go. But we're cautious."

Wizard in camp

Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, The Wizard, a World Series champion, 15-time All-Star and winner of 13 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, is in camp to lend his expertise. Those are traits that can't be measured.

Tweet from @Cardinals: Matheny on the importance of having @STLWizard and other Hall of Famers at camp. #CardsSpringTraining pic.twitter.com/eRuEDtHtZg

"Those things are priceless to us," Matheny said. "We make a huge deal when our legends are around. They're not hood ornaments. We know the fans love to see them, and they're great about making Spring Training even better for the fans that make their way down here.

"But they have huge responsibility to pass on the tradition of being a Cardinal. Ozzie's synonymous, as are the rest of our Hall of Famers, with our brand."

Cecil expected Monday

With Tommy Pham in camp, Brett Cecil is the last roster player to report. Matheny said he hopes to have the left-handed reliever in camp Monday, and if not, then soon.

Despite the late start, Matheny said he'd see where Cecil is once he arrives. But the Cards manager said he knows what Cecil brings to the table and it's just a matter of getting him ready for Opening Day.

Glenn Sattell is a contributor to MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Matt Carpenter, Brett Cecil, Michael Wacha