The Lider de Deportes released a list of possible import players that are either confirmed or potentially heading to the Venezuelan League for the 2011-12 winter season.
Three St. Louis Cardinals farmhands are reportedly signed along with two others that might play if contracts are finalized. Adron Chambers is listed as having come to terms with Leones de Caracas, Rich Rundles is returning to Tigres de Aragua, and Samuel Freeman will join Bravos de Margarita (the latter has already been confirmed).
Two other possibilities mentioned by the league are both outfielders - Shane Robinson with Leones de Caracas and Andrew Brown returning to Bravos de Margarita. At this time, Brown says he does not plan to play.
Chambers, 24, is currently
manning the outfield for Triple-A Memphis and likely hoping for a call up to
The Cardinals' 2007 38th round (1,153rd overall) selection was added to the 40-man roster on November 17, 2010 to protect him from the 2010 Rule 5 draft. Chambers could add some depth to the bench in September to provide rest for veterans.
Chambers played for Caimaines de Barranquilla in the Colombian League two years ago and was assigned to the Arizona Fall League last fall/winter with the Surprise Rafters. He played in 18 games going 22-for-66 (.333) with five doubles, one home run, ten RBIs, 30 total bases, 13 runs, five walks, ten stolen bases, 14 strikeouts, .377 OBP, .455 SLG, and .831 OPS.
Robinson, 26, is in his sixth season in the Cardinals organization but has been slowed the last couple seasons due to a dislocated shoulder last season and an on field collision with teammate Andrew Brown in April. He was outrighted off the 40-man roster in October, 2010 to make room for other prospects being protected from the Rule 5 draft.
The Cardinals' 2006 5th round (166th overall) selection received an invite to big league camp in the spring but was assigned to Triple-A Memphis to start the 2011 season. Robinson was one of the hottest hitters on the Redbirds until the collision, which put him out of action for nearly three months. He began his rehab at Short-Season Rookie-Level GCL and was quickly moved up the ranks, hitting Double-A Springfield for a short stay, then returning to the Pacific Coast League.
The right-handed hitter has played in a total of 52 games (over all three levels this season) going 67-for-209 (.321) with 12 doubles, four triples, seven home runs, 30 RBIs, 108 total bases, 45 runs, 22 walks, nine stolen bases, 17 strikeouts, two caught stealing, .391 OBP, .517 SLG, and .908 OPS.
Robinson is not a confirmed signing at the time of this report. He is also not a stranger to fall and winter action as he played with Sincelejo in the Colombian League during the 2007-08 season and Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League in 2008.
Rundles, 30, for the moment is the only left-hander coming out of the bullpen for the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds after the organization lost Raul Valdes via waivers a couple weeks ago.
The 13-year veteran hurler has had quite an interesting offseason and 2011 year. Being a free agent after the 2010 season and with no indications of being brought back to the St. Louis Cardinals or signing with another club, he signed with the Venezuelan League for the winter. After his solid performance with Tigres de Aragua in the LVBP, the Cardinals re-signed him to a minor league contract for the current season. Rundles made 14 appearances before going down with an injury which led to his release in May.
The Redbirds called Rundles back a month later to bolster the pen and overall, he has made 30 relief appearances, posting a 1-3 record and 2.08 ERA. The Red Sox' 1999 3rd round (88th overall) selection had allowed 23 hits, 13 runs (six earned), three home runs, 14 walks, and struck 25 out over 26 innings.
Last winter while with Aragua, he made 23 relief appearances posting a 3-2 record, 1.80 ERA, and collected three holds. Rundles allowed 11 hits, three earned runs, one home run, six walks, and struck out 13 over 15 innings.
Brown and Rundles were not the only Cardinals-affiliated players that saw time in the Venezuelan League last winter. Romulo Ruiz (Zulia), Roberto Espinoza (Caribes), Kevin Moscatel (Caribes), Jose Martinez (Aragua-now a MiLB free agent), Jose Rada (Aragua), Eduardo Sanchez (Aragua), Javier Avendano (Aragua), and Tyler Greene (Magallanes/Aragua) all briefly appeared in league play.
Among the players with past ties to the Cardinals organization listed on preliminary 2011-12 rosters are former Memphis Redbird Les Walrond (La Guaira), ex-St. Louis Cardinal Josh Kinney (La Guaira), former St. Louis Cardinal Andy Van Slyke's son Scott Van Slyke (La Guaira), ex-Springfield Cardinal Stuart Pomeranz (Margarita), and unsigned Cardinals 2003 34th round selection Kevin Mulvey (Margarita). Former St. Louis Cardinal Dmitri Young has been hired as a hitting instructor by Caribes.
The Venezuelan League will open its 2011-12 season on October 12th. The schedule includes an All-Star Game against the Dominican League on December 13th.
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