Marco Gonzales aims to win Cardinals' bullpen spot in a tight field

VIERA, Fla. -- The St. Louis Cardinals have enough good arms competing for few enough open jobs that they're beginning to think they could have one of the most effective bullpens in the major leagues this season. While they came up short of their World Series aspirations the past two seasons, the other Missouri team, the Kansas City Royals, was busy demonstrating what a dominant bullpen can do in October.

"I think our bullpen is maybe the best it's been since I've been here," ace Adam Wainwright said. "With all the arms down there, I don't see much of a weak spot down there, to be honest with you."

With plenty of time left to sort things out, the bullpen picture looks like this: presuming they stay healthy, closer Trevor Rosenthal, newly acquired setup man Seung Hwan Oh and 2015 stalwarts Kevin Siegrist and Seth Maness are locks, as is re-signed right-hander Jonathan Broxton. Jordan Walden is proving he's healthy again, has allowed just one base runner in three outings, and is nearing lock status.

That leaves Tyler Lyons, Marco Gonzales, Sam Tuivailala and Mitch Harris to compete for one -- or, if the Cardinals take advantage of early off days to skip some Carlos Martinez starts to limit his innings -- perhaps, two open bullpen spots.

Lyons and Gonzales, both of whom were starting pitchers last season, could have the inside edge if the team decides it needs a long man. Lyons has had a rough spring, allowing 11 base runners in six innings. Gonzales, on the other hand, is making a bid for a spot. He struck out six Washington Nationals batters in three scoreless innings of Sunday's 4-4 tie.

Gonzales, who dealt with shoulder and pectoral injuries in a rough 2015 season, said he still has to prove to a lot of people that he's healthy.

"I'm not looking too deep into it right now. It's out of my hands," Gonzales said. "I'm going to try to pitch as well as I can and land a spot, help the team win."

It doesn't hurt that Gonzales is left-handed and could team with Siegrist as the only lefties in the bullpen, but neither pitcher is a situational left-hander who would be pulled against righties. The Cardinals had one of those last season, but they opted to let Randy Choate leave via free agency.