Cardinals clear Joey Butler's 40-man spot

The St. Louis Cardinals have outrighted outfielder Joey Butler to Triple-A, clearing a 40-man roster spot. How will it be used?

In a move that was predicted by several, including me, the St. Louis Cardinals have cleared a spot on their 40-man roster prior to setting their opening day 25-man roster. On Friday, the club outrighted outfielder Joey Butler to Triple-A Memphis.

Butler, 28, was claimed off waivers by the Cardinals from the Texas Rangers in October. Since then, the in-house competition increased dramatically as the Cards acquired outfielders Randal Grichuk and Peter Bourjos in trade and claimed another minor league outfield prospect in Rafael Ortega. In addition, another right-handed hitting outfielder, Stephen Piscotty, stepped forward in spring camp and seems to have moved ahead of Butler if help is needed in St. Louis later on.

In major league spring training camp, Butler went 4-for-19 (.211), including a double, in 13 games. He drove in two, scored twice, drew three walks and struck out five times. He was optioned out on March 23rd.

Because this is Butler's first outright, he remains Cardinals property. It appears he will be on the opening day roster for the Redbirds and will likely play a reserve role. Mike O'Neill, who spent the entire final month of 2013 in Triple-A and performed well, may have to return to Double-A as a result, at least temporarily.

Butler spent six years in the Rangers farm system before making his MLB debut and appearing in eight games with Texas last season. He first reached Triple-A in 2011 and has spent most of the last three seasons there. In 3,036 career minor league plate appearances, the Mississippi native has posted a line of .291/.375/.442 and has one 20-home run season, in 2012.

Before new bullpen arrival David Aardsma struggled in his second outing with the Cardinals, it appeared Butler's 40-man slot would be used on the reliever. That could still be the case, whether now or in a few weeks when Aardsma may be more ready. Alternatively, the Cards could select someone not already on the 40-man, bring in someone else from the outside to join the minor league club or just hold onto the roster spot for a while.

The only clear conclusion to be drawn at this point is that Butler is not in the Cardinals' major league plans – at least in the near term. He could still be re-added to the 40-man roster later if conditions change; however, a second removal would lead to immediate free agency.

To see the Cardinals' entire system by level and position, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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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