Cardinals Add Lefthanded Depth With Jukich





ST. LOUIS—The Cardinals have been on the lookout for lefthanded depth at the minor league level, and they used the Rule 5 draft to take a chance on getting that and possibly more.

The Cardinals took lefty Ben Jukich off the Reds' Triple-A roster in the first round of the annual conclusion to the Winter Meetings. Jukich went 9-6, 4.10 in 29 games (17 starts) for Louisville, and he followed that with a 3-3, 3.06 turn through 10 starts this winter in the Dominican League. Before allowing six earned runs in one start, Jukich was leading the league in ERA.

"If you're going to carry three (lefties), you have to have one of them be a guy who can go against more than just lefties," farm director Jeff Luhnow said after the draft. "That's what he's going to have to show. You look at him as having been in the starting role, and he has some value in the No. 4, No. 5 starter spot, so he's shown he can face hitters from both sides of the plate."

The Cardinals eyed Jukich back in 2006 before he was the 13th-round selection by Oakland. The 6-foot-5 lefty gained a reputation for having one of the better curveballs in the A's system, and that breaking ball makes the Cardinals believe he could be effective as a lefty specialist. Jukich doesn't dazzle with velocity, operating with a high-80s fastball that has movement and placement. He had two and a half strikeouts for every walk in the International League in 2009.

Jukich, 27, struck out 22 of the 146 lefthanded hitters he faced, and he allowed only four home runs to lefties this season.

The Cardinals, who lost righthander Mike Parisi to the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft, see Jukich a possible fit in the long-relief job. There are a handful of young relievers vying for roles in the bullpen, from rigthander Mitchell Boggs as a potential setup addition to righthander Blake Hawksworth and returning righthanded reliever Kyle McClellan, either of whom could get an audition at starter. Jukich will have to win innings in spring training first and then define his job, which could be the one held by the released Brad Thompson.

"Whenever you're looking at somebody who might be used as a lefthanded reliever, we felt he had a good enough breaking ball to survive," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But more importantly, when you're look at the Rule 5 (player), you've got to be able to do more than just one out."

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• In the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft the Cardinals selected lefty reliever Matt Meyer from the Indians. The Cardinals would like to add another lefty specialist to the Memphis bullpen.

• The Cardinals do not plan to immediately fill the hitting coordinator opening created with Dan Radison moving to the Nationals' major league stuff. The Cardinals also have two hitting coach positions open, and they have discussed inviting back Mitchell Page, a former big league coach with the club.