Journell Seeking Spot On Cards' Pitching Staff

Former highly touted prospect hopes his injuries are all behind him now, for good. Journell finds himself on the comeback trail, once again.

Jimmy Journell was a star as a closer at the University of Illinois.

He has also starred in the Cardinals' minor league system as both a starter and a reliever. From 2002-2004, Journell was rated as one of the Cardinals' best prospects by Baseball America and numerous other minor league talent evaluators.

Journell is a 6'4", 200 pound righthander and a classic power pitcher, featuring a sinking fastball clocked in the 94-95 mph range, a nasty hard slider, and a good changeup. When Journell is throwing that combination of pitches for strikes, he can be virtually unhittable.

Journell used his considerable pitching skills to become a star at the college level, posting a 7-2 record with a 1.80 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched during his senior year at Illinois. The Cardinals had watched his college career closely and subsequently selected Journell in the fourth round of the 1999 player draft.

Journell made his professional debut the following year, spending the 2000 season pitching for the New Jersey Cardinals of the New York/Penn League. Pitching almost exclusively in relief, Journell had a 1-0 record with a 1.97 ERA in 13 games, striking out 39 in 32 innings pitched.

Journell's progress continued in 2001 when he was converted to a starter. He jumped to the top of Cardinals' best prospects lists following a Carolina League campaign in which he went 14-6 with a 2.50 ERA and 156 strikeouts in 151 innings pitched. Veteran Carolina League watchers say that Journell's 2001 season ranks as one of the best single season performances ever turned in by a Carolina League pitcher.

Journell saved his best 2001 performance for last however. Called up to the Double A New Haven Ravens to make his final start of the season, Journell stunned everyone by pitching a complete game no-hitter in his first-ever Double A game. Nothing like making a great first impression!

Journell missed most of the first half of the next season as he had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow but he returned for the second half of the 2002 season. Splitting his time between the Double A Ravens and the Triple A Memphis Redbirds, Journell had combined totals of 5 wins, a 3.05 ERA, and 98 strikeouts in 104 innings pitched.

Following more arm problems in the spring of 2003, the Cardinals made the decision to return Journell to a relief role to spare additional wear and tear on his elbow. Journell appeared in 33 games in relief for Memphis in 2003 and had a 6-6 record with five saves and a 3.92 ERA for the year.

Journell had a strong spring training performance for the Cardinals last year, narrowly missing out on making the Cardinals' staff when he was passed over in favor of more experienced players. He subsequently pitched only 3 innings for Memphis last season before being shut down to have surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Despite the injury problems that have bothered him off and on over the last several years, Journell remains positive in his outlook and believes he can help make the Cardinals an even better team. "I feel good about this year," Journell said, "I think I can help improve our bullpen. I'm just focusing on having a good spring like I did last year and doing the things I need to do to be part of this pitching staff".

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