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Cardinals arrive in Florida, Adam Wainwright leading the young pitching staff

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JUPITER, Fla. - The eight players vying for the five spots in the St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation haven't seen all that many spring trainings.

The inexperience occurred to manager Mike Matheny on Wednesday, reporting day for Cardinals pitchers and catchers.

"We put guys in groups today and it's amazing," said Matheny, who begins his third year as manager. "Some of the guys we have as leaders of the group don't have a whole lot of experience ...Typically when we start putting those groups together you have guys with six, seven, eight years of service that are out trying to lead a group, but we've got some younger players and I know they'll be ready for it."

At 32, Adam Wainwright is the lone starter older than 27 for the Cardinals, who aim to return to the World Series for the third time in four years. After posting a 19-9 record with a 2.94 ERA and finishing second in the Cy Young voting in 2013, Wainwright is the only starter to know his slot in the rotation — the top.

Like nearly all of the Cardinals' pitchers, Wainwright arrived in Jupiter several days ago. He threw off the mound Tuesday. On Wednesday, he pulled into the parking lot with fellow starter Shelby Miller in the passenger seat. Not scheduled to throw, Wainwright popped out of the pickup truck wearing golf attire, walked over to back field where several dozen players were loosening up and announced he was officially reporting to camp. He then wrapped his arms around Matheny.

"He's a hugger," Matheny said with a laugh.

Wainwright and Miller then jumped back in the truck and left the parking lot.

"I kind of thought they would take a complete day off, which typically guys do the day before you get going — to just shut it down completely," Matheny said. "There's nothing wrong with spending a little time with family or getting a couple swings in on your golf game."

For youngsters Miller, 23, and Michael Wacha, 22, this is the first spring where they are expected to emerge as members of the starting rotation. Miller earned the Cardinals' final rotation spot coming out of Jupiter last season, then went 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA.

A late season call-up in 2013, Wacha became a post-season sensation, winning four of his five starts and striking out 33 in 30 2/3 innings.

"Today is just report day — get all your stuff in the locker, make sure everything fits," said Wacha, who arrived Saturday. "I guess the real fun starts tomorrow, early in the morning."

Jaime Garcia, 27, reported to Jupiter early in an effort to rebound from the shoulder surgery that cut his 2013 season short.

"I think he obviously adds a pretty strong left handed component to us," Matheny said. "I'm excited to hear he is feeling as good as he is and he's excited about going out and competing and throwing his hat in the ring here and figuring out how it's all going to play out."

Lance Lynn, 26, moved into the rotation shortly after the start of the 2012 season. An All-Star in 2012, Lynn won at least 15 games in each of the past two seasons and surpassed the 200 inning mark last season. Joe Kelly, 24, Tyler Lyons, 25, and Carlos Martinez, 22, will also attempt to show they belong.

Position players aren't scheduled to report until Feb. 17, but a dozen or so have already arrived, including Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, Matt Adams and top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras, who ran on his surgically repaired ankle Wednesday.

"It looks like he's in great shape — everybody does," Matheny said.

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