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The other major medical issue entering camp is utilityman Allen Craig’s surgically repaired right knee. Craig, one of the team’s surprise postseason heroes, expects to beat the initial timetable for a May return from a torn patellar tendon and is holding out hope of being ready on opening day.

“It’s going to be close,” Craig said. “I don’t like to say that I’m going to be back on this day for sure, but the path I’m on now it could be a possibility.”

As to who’ll bat third? Matheny joked that spring training hasn’t even begun and there’s plenty of time to figure it out, several times mentioning that there’s flexibility with Holliday, Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran and perhaps even Craig up for consideration.

“Since the first day of this deal I’ve been scribbling lineups and it’s been a lot of fun,” Matheny said. “We have multiple guys who have hit in the three hole, multiple guys who can hit 4, 5, 6 and even in the two hole. There will be a little bit of toying around to see who really fills the best spot.”

Position players aren’t to report until Thursday, but most players are expected to beat that deadline. Just like virtually all the pitchers and catchers, who have been in town for a while.

Such enthusiasm. And off the short break that comes with beating the Texas Rangers in Game 7, too.

Matheny said the entire staff was watching when former 20-game winner Adam Wainwright threw off a mound a few days ago. He is set to return to the rotation after reconstructive elbow surgery sidelined him all of 2011.

“I’ve been here a couple days and it’s just blown me away, how many guys are here,” Matheny said. “That they’re this anxious to get going again, I think it says a lot about their individual character and kind of the makeup of this team. So, a lot to be excited about.”