Cardinals Look For Lefties
St. Louis takes Mijares in Rule 5 draft
ST. LOUIS—With a major league roster they've described as "pretty snug," the Cardinals didn't see any risks worth taking in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. That changed in the minor league phase, when they had a chance to grab pitcher Jean Mijares from Minnesota.
He's a lefty. He throws hard. These are two demographics the Cardinals covet.
For several years, the Cardinals have sought to reconstruct their depth of lefthanded pitchers, specifically in the bullpen. Converting starters hasn't yielded answers, and limited use of the minor league free agent market further thinned their options. Into the void will step two acquisitions from this offseason—free agent lefty Raul Valdes and Mijares—and possibly a third in Sam Freeman, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery.
"I think we're looking strong from the (lefty) reliever standpoint," farm director John Vuch said. "I think we've already upgraded over last year."
Valdes, 33, went 3-3, 4.91 for the Mets last season, and he can be used as either a starter or a reliever. His splits didn't scream lefty specialist and the Cardinals like his versatility.
With Mijares, general manager John Mozeliak put it succinctly: "Big arm (whose) control is a little bit of a question." Mijares, 22, went 2-1, 2.67 at Rookie-level Elizabethton last year, and he has just 40 domestic minor league appearances. He had a .195 opponent average, with 45 strikeouts in 34 innings. There's promise in his power, and the Cardinals want a chance to be there when things click with his command.
Freeman, 23, came to major league spring training in 2010 with heightened expectations, but his elbow failed him. He had surgery before the end of spring, and his rehab has gone well. In 2009, he was 2-2, 2.41 in a season split between high Class A and Double-A.
• In exchange for shortstop Brendan Ryan, the Cardinals received righthander Maikel Cleto from the Mariners. Cleto continues the Cardinals' collection of big arms, though he has yet to show consistent command of a fastball that hits the upper 90s.
• The Cardinals weren't too leery of exposing outfielder Daryl Jones and righthander Adam Ottavino (and his injured shoulder) to the Rule 5 draft because both players had passed through waivers. Jones has slumped since being the organization's player of the year in 2008. Ottavino did not require surgery and could pitch his way into the big league bullpen in 2011.