Though formerly ranked well behind various other prospects -- most notably fellow outfielder Colby Rasmus -- Mather appears to have the inside track to open at third base in place of injured starter Troy Glaus, who likely will be sidelined for most of April and perhaps well into May or beyond.
It's very early to be making such judgments, but unconfirmed reports foresee Mather's conversion as a done deal unless he completely embarrasses himself at the hot corner before the end of camp.
Mather, 25, may be considered sort of a 6-foot-4, 200-pound "Troy Glaus light," in other words a younger, left-handed version of the big, swing-and-miss power hitting starter. In a limited trial cut short by a wrist injury late last year, Mather hit 8 homers in just 133 at-bats, having previously hit 17 homers in 211 at-bats for Triple-A Memphis.
Mather's unexpected emergence casts a pall over the candidacies of third base hopefuls Brian Barden and Brendan Ryan, at least for the short term.
If Mather sticks, it will not be the first time that LaRussa has refused to let lack of imagination stand in the way of fielding a playoff contending team, having been wildly successful in pulling Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel off the scrapheap.
In other news coming out of Grapefruit League Saturday, former Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter retired six Nationals over two innings, throwing 13 strikes on 19 pitches, though he hit a batter. He is coming off the second of two elbow surgeries, plus a myriad of other injuries sustained since his 2006 career year, when he won 15 games.
To make matters more complicated, David Freese and Brett Wallace are projected to make an impact at third base by next year if not sooner.