Cardinals Sign Cuban Pitcher Hector Mendoza

The Cardinals have signed Hector Mendoza, a 23-year-old righthander from Cuba, the team announced today. Mendoza, 23, is exempt from the international bonus pools. Based on his present ability, he should be ready to pitch in high Class A or a Double-A assignment, though that has yet to be determined.

In Cuba, Mendoza was a reliever for La Isla de la Jueventud, though he didn't pitch much there, due to a combination of injuries and the time he spent pitching in Japan, where he pitched sparingly for the Yomiuri Giants in Nippon Professional Baseball and struggled with their farm team.

At his best, Mendoza has shown feel for three pitches, including a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph and can reach 94. His primary offspeed pitch is a solid-average curveball at 76-80 mph that's inconsistent but flashes plus with good depth and a changeup with good speed differential off his fastball, though he lacks command of that pitch and tends to float it up in the zone.

However, Mendoza hasn't looked as sharp in recent showings in the Dominican Republic. At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Mendoza has the repertoire of a starter, though given his limited workload, his struggles to maintain his velocity when he pitches more than one inning and history of arm problems, there's a significant probability he ends up a reliever.