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Cardinals open camp with numerous questions, but count on one returning constant: Superb pitching

JUPITER, Fla. — For a team that fancies itself a perpetual contender and even a favorite for the division crown, the Cardinals concede they began spring training — officially, formally — on Wednesday morning with an unusual amount of prevailing questions in prominent places.

In the next six weeks they aim to identify a closer, find a cleanup hitter, choose a leadoff batter, and determine at least the fifth starter in the rotation.

So, not too much. Only a lot.

Regardless of how many questions swirl around them, when the Cardinals will sift through their options, and who they determine will fill those roles, they already know the answer for what will determine if they defend the National League Central title.