After signing a two-year, $26 million deal with full no-trade protection, new center fielder Carlos Beltran said there had been four other challengers for his services.
But he made it clear he thought the Cardinals represented the best shot for him to go his first World Series.
"It was a team I had a lot of interest in this offseason," said Beltran, who opened last year with the New York Mets before being traded in July to the San Francisco Giants.
"Right now I'm just looking forward to being with a team that can go to the playoffs and the World Series."
Beltran, 34, has reached the postseason only twice during a 14-year career. Both times the Cardinals eliminated his team, the 2004 Houston Astros and 2006 Mets, en route to a World Series appearance.
A career .282 hitter, Beltran has been even better on October's stage, batting .366 with 11 home runs and 19 RBI in only 82 at-bats.
Right knee surgery two years ago helped force Beltran to be exclusively a right fielder last year. But Beltran said he would play center field if asked.
"Right now I feel good," Beltran said. "Last year I played in the outfield and the games I missed, it wasn't because of the knee. It was because of an injury to my wrist."
New manager Mike Matheny, asked how he might deploy Beltran, either as a right fielder with Allen Craig recovering from knee surgery, or to challenge Jon Jay in center, said: "It's going to be a juggling act to see how (Beltran) progresses through the spring.
"Spring is really a good test. That tells you a lot about how their bodies are going to be able to hold up through the strain of a season. In a perfect world, I'd love to see him healthy. And when he's healthy, we have options."
Retired manager Tony La
Russa quickly accepted an invitation from commissioner Bud Selig to manage the
National League in the All-Star Game on July 10 in
CF Jon Jay, who was a
Among non-roster players
invited to spring training is INF Eugenio Velez, who was with
RHPs Tyrell Jenkins and
Jordan Swagerty, who were taken in the 2010 draft, will be invited to big-league
spring training, joining 2009 first-round pick Shelby Miller, who is on a fast
track toward perhaps joining the Cardinals late this season. Jenkins, 19, hasn't
pitched above rookie ball but former
BY THE NUMBERS: 45-36 - Cardinals' regular-season record both at home and on the road last season. In the postseason, they were 6-4 and 5-4, respectively.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have two daughters who are single, and I wish he'd marry both of them."
- Former manager Tony La Russa's endorsement of new manager Mike Matheny, who already is married.
The Cardinals are coming off a World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. Now that first baseman Albert Pujols is gone, the Cardinals are entering a new era, and they replaced some of Pujols' offense by signing OF Carlos Beltran.
OF Carlos Beltran (free agent from
Giants), LHP J.C. Romero (free agent from
1B Albert Pujols (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent, signed with Tigers), C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers), INF Nick Punto (free agent, signed with Red Sox), INF Ryan Theriot (free agent, signed with Giants).
OF Allen Craig (knee surgery) is out until May.
RHP Adam Wainwright is in