Cardinals Early 2007 Draft Pick Steps Away

Two pitchers drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals chose not to report to spring training camp.

Though invited to join St. Louis Cardinals minor league spring training camp this past month, two pitchers, Thomas Eager and Jason Novak, did not report.

The organization typically considers these kinds of players voluntarily retired. Usually in such cases, they are placed on the restricted list, not counting against roster limits. This way, the Cardinals maintain control of them professionally in case they decide to return to the game later.

Thomas Eager
Eager, a 25-year-old right-hander taken in the fifth round of the 2007 draft from Cal Poly, had received a $134,000 bonus upon signing. After an up and down start to his career, his progress seemed to stall.

Eager made his professional debut in the New York-Penn League, going 1-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 19 appearances (nine starts) for the Batavia Muckdogs. He struck out 56 in 60 2/3 innings, but walked 27 and allowed 69 hits (.291 BAA). Despite a slow start, Eager finished the season strong, going 1-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 21 innings.

In 2008, the Cardinals started Eager with Quad Cities, where he struggled to find his rhythm. In 15 games, Midwest League hitters tagged him with a 5.92 ERA. He struggled with his command, walking 27 compared to only 30 strikeouts.

Eager dropped back to Batavia, where he excelled. He posted a 6-3 record and a miniscule 1.76 ERA. He recorded an almost two-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding the opposition to a .193 average against. His ERA would have been the second-best mark in the league if he had tossed enough innings to qualify.

The right-hander was moved to relief in 2009 and stepped over Quad Cities. He went 4-6 with a 5.25 ERA in 52 appearances for A-Advanced Palm Beach. Eager fanned 75 in 70 1/3 innings but walked 46. His ten holds tied for the Florida State League lead.

Last season, Eager stepped up to Double-A Springfield, where he went 2-4 with a 4.15 ERA in 73 2/3 innings over 54 games. Free passes continued to be a problem as he issued 44 while fanning 56.

Eager apparently ended his four-season Cardinals career with a 15-21 record with a 4.29 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio was 257/171 in 312 2/3 professional innings.

Jason Novak
Novak, 23, was the Cardinals' 48th round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft from UCLA. That summer, the right-hander disappointed against the less-polished competition of the Appalachian League. In 21 innings, Novak allowed a .279 average against, leading to his ERA of 6.00. He did manage 24 strikeouts.

The right-hander began 2010 in Extended Spring Training before receiving the call to Quad Cities on May 1. At the end of July, the River Bandits placed Novak on the disabled list due to a forearm injury, where he remained for the rest of the season.

On the year, Novak finished with a 3-1 record and a 3.47 ERA. He threw 36 1/3 innings in 26 games, all out of the bullpen, and had a solid 45/13 strikeout to walk ratio.

As his injury lingered into 2011, Novak elected to retire and is returning to UCLA to complete his degree.

To see the almost final minor league rosters coming out of spring training camp, click here.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column on Thursdays at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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