After dealing with left shoulder problems all of last season and into the playoffs, questions have surrounded Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia and whether he'll stay healthy this season.
Many of those questions were answered when Garcia had the best Spring Training of any St. Louis starter, tossing 29 innings in the Grapefruit League to lead the staff.
The left-hander will try to keep that consistency going when he takes the hill for the first time this season against the D-backs on Tuesday at Chase Field.
"I wanted to see him go out there and just take the ball and pitch every day that we gave him the chance to and not over think," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He came out and did just that. He did a very nice job of, in my opinion, taking a step forward in his growth as a pitcher.
"I'm really excited to watch a full season of that. The stuff, nobody had any questions about whether this guy's stuff was any good. He's in a different league with some of the movement he has on his pitches."
Garcia should have some stiff competition though in D-backs right-hander Trevor Cahill, who comes into the season having dropped 15 pounds.
Looking good throughout Spring Training, Cahill tossed 88 pitches and struck out 11 in just 5 2/3 innings during his final start.
"I felt a lot better today than I have," Cahill said after the start. "I was throwing my sinker for strikes and throwing to both sides of the plate, which I feel like is the first time I've done that consistently this spring."
Cardinals: Bullpen roles still to be determined
With St. Louis closer Jason Motte opening the season on the disabled list, Matheny needs to find a way to get some late-inning stability.
He'll do that by turning to reliever Mitchell Boggs in save situations. However, the bridge between the starters and Boggs is still undetermined. Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal are likely to factor in as setup men, though Matheny shied away from designating roles for anyone aside from Boggs.
"We'll feel our way through it," Matheny said. "It's going to be tough knowing that spot when to use him when we've got some right-handers getting lefties out. Do we have the kind of depth that we can pull one of those guys out for one hitter and burn up another guy? There's going to be some interesting dynamics. We'll get him in there when we feel like it's going to be a pivotal point and our best chance to use him."
D-backs: Ross sets target date for return
Outfielder Cody Ross will head to California on Thursday to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Visalia as he continues to recover from a nagging left calf strain.
Manager Kirk Gibson said the earliest Ross will rejoin the big league club is April 8, when the team returns home from a weekend series in Milwaukee.
"If he's ready to go, he'll play the outfield there, but my guess is he'll probably DH first," Gibson said. "We want to make sure he has enough endurance that he doesn't re-injure it. We have to build him up."
Before he leaves for California, the 32-year-old will hit against three D-backs Minor League pitchers on Tuesday at Chase Field in a simulated game.
• St. Louis third baseman David Freese told Matheny via text on Monday that he had another good workout down at the team's Jupiter (Fla.) complex. Matheny said Freese is tentatively scheduled to play in extended spring training games on Friday and Saturday, if not earlier.
• Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who now works in an official capacity with Major League Baseball, was in attendance for Monday's game at Chase Field.
• Gibson announced on Monday that Wade Miley will make his regular-season debut Friday against the Brewers, with Patrick Corbin following him on Saturday.
Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.