JUPITER, Fla. -- The defending NL Central champion Cardinals started spring training today with pitchers and catchers, and a handful of position players, at Roger Dean Stadium. Of the 16 pitchers on the 40-man roster, 12 arrived, with righthanders Anthony Reyes and off-season pickup Juan Mateo absent, along with lefthanders Ricardo Rincon and Chris Narveson. "(Ricardo) Rincon called me two days ago and said he was having visa problems," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Walt (Jocketty) mentioned a couple of other guys from the Dominican Republic, (Juan) Mateo was one of them, were having some entry problems." National League MVP Albert Pujols was among the six position players who arrived early. Of the non-roster invitees, Alan Benes, Jeff Nelson, Blaine Neal, John Reidling and John Webb arrived as pitchers who were on a Major League roster last season. All four of the returning members of the Cardinals` starting rotation arrived, highlighted by 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter. "Just look at him, he`s in great shape," La Russa said. "I don`t know if he`s more excited than he`s ever been, but certainly he`s not any less. I think he`s high quality." Carpenter won 21 games last season with a 2.83 ERA and threw 241.2 innings in 33 starts. He was the first Cardinals Cy Young Award winner since Bob Gibson in 1970. "The impressive thing is he was able to maintain that level of concentration and competitiveness," La Russa said. "Most guys, even if you`re great, you have a dip once in a while. Every day he pitched it was like the same pitcher." Jason Marquis, Mark Mulder and Jeff Suppan complete the rest of the Cardinals returning rotation. Six position players arrived early including 2005 NL Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols. Infielders Chris Duncan and Brendan Ryan were joined by outfielders Rick Ankiel, John Gall and John Rodriguez. The Cardinals invited 21 non-roster players along with 38 on the current 40-man roster. Some of the extra invitees will compensate for players lost to the World Baseball Classic March 3-20. Yadier Molina, along with Albert Pujols will miss time for the World Baseball Classic, along with Juan Encarnacion and Ricardo Rincon who are competing for roster spots on their respective countries` rosters. "I think that`s one of the problems with him being late," La Russa said about Rincon. "He`s only going to be here for a few days and then taking off. That`s not good." La Russa also will lose third base coach Jose Oquendo, who will leave to manage Team Puerto Rico. "I feel really good for him," La Russa said. "I think he`s going to do a great job. I look around and every team has at least somebody missing for the World Baseball Classic."