Coach Jose Oquendo and minor league infielders (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Answering questions on gaps in the St. Louis Cardinals’ recent minor league coaching announcements.

Last week, the St. Louis Cardinals announced their minor league staffs for 2017. We followed up on four related areas, but one key question remains open.

Sometimes, what is not said in announcements is as important as the announcements themselves.

Last week, the St. Louis Cardinals disclosed their player development personnel for 2017, including managers and coaches. In doing so, four areas caught my attention, each of which required me to follow up to gain more clarification and further information.

Weinberg remains

Unlike past years, the long-time Cardinals athletic trainer under Tony La Russa, Barry Weinberg, was not listed among the minor league personnel. However, I have confirmed the Jupiter-based Weinberg is continuing in his role as Senior Medical Advisor for 2017. For whatever reason, he was just not named in the team’s announcement.  

Weinberg, who got his start as a student trainer at Indiana University under the legendary Bobby Knight in the 1970’s, has also signed on to continue as head trainer for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic in the spring. Cardinals Triple-A reliever Ryan Sherriff is expected to again pitch for the club. 

In 2012, I wrote about Weinberg’s senior advisor role here.

Fourth coach program continues

Last fall, when the Cardinals made their minor league staffing announcements, they included their fourth coaches at the top five levels of the system – from Memphis to State College. Those designations were missing from the press release this past week.

However, I have confirmed from the team that the program will be continuing for 2017. The Cardinals are still a few weeks away from being ready to announce, however.

The fourth coach program is designed to groom future minor league coaches and professional scouts. The individuals are in uniform during pre-game practice and switch into street clothes during games to scout both the Cardinals and their minor league opponents.

Graduates of the program include professional scouts Packy Elkins, Ricky Meinhold and Brian Pruitt along with Peoria hitting coach Donnie Ecker.

Who is Brandon Allen?

Of the only two external hires for 2017 among managers and coaches, new Memphis manager Stubby Clapp has received all the attention. It is well-deserved as the former second baseman is so beloved that his number was retired by the Redbirds.

http://www.scout.com/player/127050-brandon-allen?s=321

The other new addition is Brandon Allen, named hitting coach for Johnson City. I have confirmed that the 30-year-old is the former MLB first baseman-outfielder with Arizona, Oakland and Tampa Bay from 2009-12. After moving to Japan for the latter part of the 2012 season, Allen played at Triple-A with San Diego (2013), the Mets (2014-15) and Cincinnati (2016).

In 1,463 games over 13 years of professional play, the Texas native posted a line of .256/.345/.456/.801. Allen hit 217 home runs and drove in 845.

In his first coaching role, Allen takes over for new Johnson City manager Roberto Espinoza, who was the Appalachian League Cardinals’ hitting coach in 2016.

Secret plan for Secret Weapon?

Last, but certainly not least, is Jose Oquendo. The long-time and beloved third base coach for St. Louis appears to be in some kind of career limbo.

http://www.scout.com/player/100009-jose-oquendo?s=321

The 53-year-old stepped out of his MLB position early last season on a medical leave due to the aftermath of dual knee surgeries, expressing a desire to coach Cardinals minor leaguers. This fall, as the above photo from instructional league camp confirms, the “Secret Weapon” was very actively doing just that.

However, both the Cardinals’ MLB and minor league staffs have been announced for 2017 and Oquendo’s name does not appear on either personnel roster. I had been expecting to see him listed alongside Willie McGee as a Special Assistant to the General Manager or with some similar title, giving the coach and the organization considerable flexibility as to how he would be deployed.

But that is not the case – at least not yet.

Normally, coaching contracts are offered for the next season in October and locked down by November. The fact that Oquendo’s plans for 2017 are unclear here in December makes one wonder what the snag might be.

So, I asked one organization official about the matter, but he declined to comment. Another team official simply replied that there will be an announcement when they have one to make.

In the meantime, we are simply left to wonder about Oquendo’s future with the Cardinals.

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

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