Rowlett's Quest

Former Razorback and current St. Louis minor leaguer Casey Rowlett, who will get to see his old University of Arkansas team play Missouri State in Springfield (Mo.) tonight, is working his way up the Cardinals' organizational ladder and got a chance to impress the big league club this past weekend.

UPDATE: Casey Rowlett has been promoted to Class AAA Memphis as of Wednesday.

SPRINGFIELD, MO. - Settled comfortably into the batter's box sporting the high sock look, Casey Rowlett eyed the major league pitcher's fastball coming toward him.

The former University of Arkansas star jumped all over Kelvin Jimenez' offering and roped a double.

It was just one of Class AA Springfield Cardinals' 20 hits against the parent St. Louis Cardinals during a 10-3 win on Saturday and earned the Baby Birds a split of the two-game exhibition series.

The only thing better for the former University of Arkansas star would have been if he had been doing it for the major league club – something the 25-year-old certainly aspires to do in the future.

"Obviously my ultimate goal is to get to the big league," Rowlett said. "I got here (Springfield) quicker than I thought I would and it is just a matter of continuing to work hard and move up the ladder."

There's certainly that possibility because Rowlett, who will get a chance to see his old Arkansas college squad play Missouri State at Springfield's Hammons Field tonight, is a multi-positional player – something the big league club covets.

Right now Aaron Miles and Brendan Ryan fill those roles with the big league Cardinals while Rico Washington is the guy ticketed for that spot in Memphis once Ryan comes off the disabled list.

Next on the organizational utility depth chart is Rowlett (5-8, 175), who spends most of his time either at second base or right field, but can play up to six different positions.

"I think being a utility guy is a good situation for me," Rowlett said. "I can play both the outfield and the infield and it helps you out with the club and your progression. It's good to have – I guess you would call it that weapon. As long as you can do the little things and come out and produce, you can keep moving up."

"They (the Cardinals) really thrive on utility guys," Rowlett added. "It's a good situation. I just have to get it done at the plate and in the field, too."

Rowlett, a Jones (Okla.) native who helped Arkansas get to the College World Series in 2004, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 32nd round of the June 2005 First-year Player Draft.

He was outstanding in short season rookie ball in Johnson City and moved low Class A New Jersey in 2005. Rowlett spent the last month of 2005 and all of 2006 with low Class A Quad Cities, where he hit .311 in his final 19 games.

He got his most publicity when he jumped to Quad Cities because he took Rick Ankiel's spot when Ankiel moved up to Springfield.

His name made all the news outlets because of Ankiel, the former Cards pitcher who flamed out as a hurler but is now back up as a hitter.

"He's got the best of both worlds, going up as a pitcher and then come all the way back up as a hitter," Rowlett said of Ankiel. "It's neat to watch him. He could probably still go back and pitch if he wanted to. That was pretty cool to be in the stories with him."

Rowlett then started 2007 at Palm Beach, St. Louis' High Class A affiliate – the natural progression for a player of his experience.

But after just 20 games, he was promoted to Springfield where he was a part of a club that featured Cards top prospects such as center fielder Colby Rasmus and catcher Bryan Anderson.

Springfield won the second half Texas League North Division title before losing to San Antonio in the championship series.

Rowlett, who had a division-clinching RBI single against the Arkansas Travelers, played 77 games for the Cards while hitting .244 with two homers, 20 RBIs, 4 triples, 11 doubles and 6 stolen bases.

"I had a good year in 06 and started off good in Palm Beach in 07," Rowlett said. "Just being able to come up here and play in better stadiums, have better crowds, have better spreads in the locker room is great. It is fun to see the different level and how they treat you and it only gets better from here."

Rasmus – the organization's top prospect and the guy Rowlett played beside a lot last season - is expected to be in St. Louis as a starting outfielder possibly as soon as a couple of months and certainly no later than 2009.

"It's awesome to see guys go up like Rasmus," Rowlett said. "They deserve it and you hope that is you one day. It is going to be interesting the next few years and fun to watch."

In that vein, Rowlett is obviously pleased to hear new St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak talk about building from within after trading away Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen and starting a youth movement.

"You love it when you hear a GM say we want to start building from within and from our draft picks instead of the free agent market," Rowlett said. "As a minor leaguer you love hearing that because they draft you, they want to see you develop and the free agents are not going to hold you back."

Rowlett is one of two former Razorbacks moving up the organizational ladder with the Cardinals.

The other is pitcher Jess Todd, who was drafted last season, is now in high A ball and may be in Double A sooner than later.

"He was untouchable in spring training," Rowlett said. "He was on his game and got bumped up to high A so he is going to skip low A. He is a kid that goes out every day, gets on that mound and is a warrior. That's what you like. I love watching him pitch and hopefully he comes up here pretty soon."

Both Rowlett and Todd got plenty of action in spring training – just not on the main field that gets all the publicity.

"We had a lot of guys down there this spring training," Rowlett said. "You have got five fields, five games going at once, it is kind of scatterbrained.

"Sometimes you play with the Triple-A squad, sometimes you play back down, you always have different guys rotating," Rowlett added. "It is a fun experience. You get your work done in the morning – all the fundamental stuff – and then play games at 1. It's much better weather than here, I know that."

Rowlett was speaking of the two 40-degree days Springfield had while playing two games with the parent club.

Albert Pujols doubled and homered to lead St. Louis to a 3-2 win on Friday night before the Baby Birds blasted away at the big boys on Saturday.

Rowlett was sporting more gloves than anyone on the two days.

"I bring three gloves out every day," Rowlett said. "I like the outfield. I am most comfortable in the outfield, but I am also comfortable at second. Those are the two main positions that I have been playing, but I have been put all over the place depending on where I am needed at a certain time and certain situation in a game."

He is looking forward to watching the Razorbacks tonight after keeping up with them on the Internet so far.

"They have a young club down there and I got to meet a few of those new guys," Rowlett said. "I am still real good friends with guys like Logan (Forsythe) and (Aaron) Murphree."

"(UA hitting) Coach (Todd) Butler says it is a building process and they are going to come along," Rowlett said. "If you go out and play hard you never know what can happen. Our team in '05 was picked last in the last in the West and we went to the College World Series."

Rowlett and Todd were stunned like everyone else with Murphree hitting 12 homers in the first 12 games.

"Jess Todd and I looked on there (the internet) and we were like "this kid is on fire,'" Rowlett said. "That's good for him and hopefully he can continue to have a good year and he'll get a chance to play at the next level."

He looks back on his Arkansas days fondly even though his senior season was cut short by a suspension after a blistering start.

Rowlett was hitting an SEC-leading .473 through 23 games with 16 stolen bases and a 22-game hitting streak before he and fellow senior Scott Bridges were suspended on March 30 due to violation of team rules.

"What comes to mind the most is the atmosphere of playing at Baum Stadium," Rowlett said. "The fans are great and I don't think there is anything like it in college baseball. There are only a few programs even close. The fans are so loyal. Arkansas is all they've got around there so they really support the Razorbacks."

His fondest memory occurred during the postseason run to the 2004 CWS.

"It was amazing," Rowlett said. "From Brady hitting the grand slam home run against Wichita State to then beating Florida State when they came in. I think that is when the program really took off after that year. Being in Omaha, we didn't get done what we wanted to when we got there, but the atmosphere was amazing and when you are a kid what you want to do is play in Omaha."

While he won't get to play in Baum Stadium, Rowlett will get a chance to play several games in Northwest Arkansas this season.

The new Northwest Arkansas Naturals and Springfield are in the same division along with the Arkansas Travelers and Tulsa Drillers.

"I've already got a lot of people saying they are going to be there," Rowlett said. "It's going to be fun to play there. I live there in the off-season, too, so I still talk to a lot of people down there."

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