Braves Pick Up Cardenas, Hardy In Busy Rule 5 Draft

ATLANTA—Pitching was the focus of the Braves' efforts at the Winter Meetings. After acquiring righthander Scott Linebrink from the White Sox for Double-A hurler Kyle Cofield just prior to the start of the meetings, Atlanta general manager Frank Wren added another veteran reliever to the mix by signing lefty George Sherrill.

The meetings then concluded with two hurlers coming to the organization and one leaving via the Rule 5 draft. Typically one of the least-active teams in the annual process, the Braves selected righthander Eliecer Cardenas from the Twins and lefty Rowdy Hardy from the Royals in the Triple-A phase after Minnesota plucked lefty Scott Diamond in the major league portion.

Wren and the Braves knew Diamond would be one of the more attractive players available. Originally signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2007 out of Binghamton, he made the adjustments of commanding the strike zone last season while climbing from Double-A to Triple-A. He went a combined 8-7, 3.46 between the two levels.

The 28-year-old Hardy is a lanky lefthander who pitches to contact with excellent command. He won an Ohio Valley Conference record 32 games during his career at Austin Peay State before signing with the Royals as a fifth-year senior prior to the 2006 draft. The southpaw moved to the bullpen on a full-time basis in 2010, when he went 4-3, 3.44 at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.

While tentative plans call for Hardy to work in relief at Triple-A Gwinnett next season, Cardenas' status is more questionable. He has shown a strong arm with inconsistent command since signing with the Twins in 2006 out of the Dominican Republic and has had success, as evidenced by his 16-7, 2.62 mark. At the same time, he will be 23 at the end of January and has pitched only two seasons in the U.S., including only one at a full-season level. He went 5-1, 3.69 in 38 games (63 innings) at low Class A Beloit.

Wigwam Wisps

• Six-year minor league free agents rarely have an impact on the major league roster, but the Braves believe infielder Ed Lucas and outfielder Jose Constanza have a chance to contribute in Atlanta. Lucas who hit .307/.398/.480 last year at Triple-A Omaha (Royals), will compete for a utility job. Constanza could be a reserve at any of the outfield spots after hitting .313/.373/.394 and stealing 34 bases last season at Triple-A Columbus (Indians).

• Former infielder Jonathan Schuerholz will be the manager of the Braves' Rookie-level Gulf Coast League entry in 2011. The Auburn product was the organization's roving infield instructor in 2010.