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Plenty of questions as Cards pitchers begin camp

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals pitchers and catchers underwent their annual physicals at the club's Spring Training complex Wednesday before spiking up and heading to the backfields, where the first official workout of 2018 camp commenced.

The club's main focus over the coming weeks will be on those arms. The mound sessions promise to be rife with competition, especially among the considerable stock of bullpen types the club has assembled in an attempt to unscramble its late-inning puzzle.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals pitchers and catchers underwent their annual physicals at the club's Spring Training complex Wednesday before spiking up and heading to the backfields, where the first official workout of 2018 camp commenced.

The club's main focus over the coming weeks will be on those arms. The mound sessions promise to be rife with competition, especially among the considerable stock of bullpen types the club has assembled in an attempt to unscramble its late-inning puzzle.

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Of the dozen or so pitchers in camp who could factor into the big league bullpen, few enter spring with defined roles. There will also be competition for spots in the back end of the rotation. The Cardinals have depth options to cover their bets on Adam Wainwright (health) and Miles Mikolas (inexperience), who are slotted for the middle of it.

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"There are a lot of question marks going in," president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Wednesday. "But I think those questions have answers."

With this as a backdrop, let's take a look at the most intriguing storylines on the pitching side as Cardinals hurlers get going in Florida.

How much does Wainwright have left?

Coming off the most trying campaign of his 12-year career, Wainwright enters the final year of a five-year contract at age 36 and coming off elbow surgery. He's no longer an ace, but the success of the Cardinals' rotation could hinge on whether or not Wainwright provides sufficient depth.

Will Wainwright regain some of his old velocity? Can he prove a serviceable middle-of-the-rotation piece? The answers to those questions will likely determine whether his career in St. Louis extends beyond this season.

"The expectation is greatness, and that's what he puts on himself as well," manager Mike Matheny said. "This year, because of questions like this, he's probably more motivated than ever before."

Who pushes Gregerson for the closer role?

The ninth inning is Luke Gregerson's to lose, after the club brought the veteran in on a two-year deal this offseason. But he'll be on something of a short leash, especially if other options (Tyler Lyons, Bud Norris, Sam Tuivailala et al.) emerge. Ryan Helsley, Jordan Hicks and Dakota Hudson are three internal options garnering a bit of buzz early in camp.

Can Reyes avoid a setback?

This week marks a full year since Alex Reyes underwent Tommy John surgery, and the righty has thrown several limited bullpen sessions over the last few weeks. The Cardinals would love the 23-year-old to return by May 1, but they will be cautious with him. When Reyes comes back will be determined by his health. Where he returns to -- the rotation or the bullpen -- may be dictated by team need, at least initially.

Video: Reyes looks to regain form after Tommy John surgery

Who is Miles Mikolas?

New pitching coach Mike Maddux is the only person in the Cardinals' organization who has shared a dugout with Mikolas, who spent the last three seasons in Japan. The Cardinals felt confident enough to sign him to a two-year, $15.5 million deal, and he slots in as their No. 4 starter. How he readjusts to the Major Leagues will be worth watching.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com.

St. Louis Cardinals, Luke Gregerson, Miles Mikolas, Alex Reyes, Adam Wainwright