Cards add veteran Aardsma for last pen spot

The St. Louis Cardinals have a new favorite to win the final bullpen spot in veteran David Aardsma.

The last spot in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen has been an area of concern. With Jason Motte not ready to open the season, youngsters Jorge Rondon and Keith Butler, and earlier, Sam Freeman, did not step up and seize the job.

That spot may instead be taken by a new arrival. Veteran right-hander David Aardsma has been signed to a minor league contract. Or he could be asked to start the season with Triple-A Memphis if not tuned up to the Cardinals' satisfaction.

The well-traveled 32-year-old opened this spring in Cleveland's camp, pitching six innings, allowing two runs while striking out five. The non-roster invitee was released by the Tribe two days ago.

Expectations should be realistic. Aardsma no longer is the same pitcher who saved 69 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2008-2009, including 16 straight in one stretch. In the last 12 months alone, the Colorado native has been released three times and became a free agent once.

Once famed for mid-90's heat and a devastating splitter, Aardsma now throws in the low 90's and has added a slider to his repertoire. He went 2-2 with a 4.31 ERA in 43 games with the New York Mets last season after spending April and May in Triple-A with the Mets and Marlins.

Aardsma: A Met in 2013
Aardsma went to 2013 camp with the Yankees but did not make the team. He had returned at the very end of 2012 with the Bombers after missing the prior 2 ½ years with a torn labrum in his left hip and a right elbow injury that both required surgery, including Tommy John ligament replacement procedure for the latter ailment.

His eight-year major league career began in 2004 with the Giants. Aardsma then moved on to the Cubs, White Sox, Red Sox, Mariners, Yankees, Marlins (minor league deal) and Mets. His career record is 15-17 with 69 saves and a 4.23 ERA in 298 career relief appearances. Aardsma has been assigned Cardinals uniform #53, last worn by Matt Adams.

For the stretch run last season, the Cards acquired veteran reliever John Axford from Milwaukee in return for prospect Michael Blazek. Instead of keeping Axford, who was arbitration eligible, St. Louis let him depart as a free agent. He signed with Cleveland to be their closer for $4.5 million. It appears that job may now fall to Aardsma, if he is ready.

With this move, the Cardinals have 28 40-man roster players and seven non-roster invitees remaining in Major League Camp. Though the Cardinals have an opening on the 40-man roster, that is expected to be used by NRI reliever Pat Neshek. If another spot is needed for Aardsma, recently-claimed outfielder Joey Butler may be at risk.

To see the Cardinals entire 40-man roster and non-roster spring training invitees, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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