Octavio Dotel, Cardinals Setup Man?

Dotel's agent, Dan Horwits, said the Cardinals have called him regarding Dotel and that Dotel's willingness to be a setup man has attracted more interest.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch was the first to report that the Cardinals had made contact with Dotel's agent last week.

Most Cardinal fans remember Dotel from his days with the Houston Astros. Originally signed by the New York Mets, Dotel spent four and a half seasons with the Astros before being traded to the Oakland A's as part of a three team deal in June of 2004.

Dotel was expected to step in and be Oakland's closer, but he blew his first save opportunity and then blew another five, despite putting together a decent season's worth of stats.

Dotel was 6-2 with a 4.09 ERA with 22 saves in 28 save opportunities for Oakland in 04. Combined with his record the first part of the season with Houston, Dotel finished the 2004 campaign with a 6-6 record with a 3.69 ERA and 36 saves in 45 opportunities.

Last season, the 6' 210 pound, right-hander appeared in only 15 games for Oakland before his season came to an end after Tommy John surgery. He had blown four saves up to that point. His record of 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA and seven saves in 11 opportunities is remarkable considering the problems he was having with his arm.

Dotel's decision to have the surgery, went against the advice of several doctors (including two employed by the A's) who suggested he try the rest-and-rehab route, was met with a wide range of reactions.

"I've never seen this one before," said athletic trainer Larry Davis, who noted that a number of big league hurlers "routinely" pitch with the same condition afflicting Dotel.

Teammate and fellow pitcher Barry Zito came to the defense of Dotel, "Only he knows what's going on in his arm, and if Dotel says he can't pitch, trust me, he can't pitch," Zito said. "Dotel's a gamer. Anyone who questions that guy's heart doesn't know what they're talking about."

Oakland's GM Billy Beane added: "The player is hurt, and we believe him to be so."

The surgery was basically just part of a Tommy John surgery, because Dotel's elbow got only the second half of the standard procedure. Tommy John Surgery typically involves removing and replacing a damaged ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), but Dotel doesn't have a UCL, so he had one added.

Dotel has been told by doctors that he could be ready to pitch by the start of the 2006 season, something that the Cardinals are taking a close look at.

While there's no doubt that the recovery period for Tommy John surgery has accelerated recently, pitching competitively again in nine months seems a bit too optimistic to me.

I have often reported here at www.thestlcardinals, about what seems to be the very optimistic projections about the return of players from surgery and this may be another case of thinking too positively.

Dotel has been throwing on flat ground for the past two months in Miami and will begin throwing off the mound in December, barring any set backs.

For the record, in my opinion Dotel has the potential of being one of the best closers in all of baseball. Of course his role in St. Louis would be that of a set-up man for Jason Isringhausen, but he could fill in if Izzy would be sidelined for some reason.

Looking for power pitchers for the post season? You would have one with Octavio. Dotel has a fastball that can be clock around 97 MPH, and he sets it up with a pretty good slider, with good control.

Dotel gets hurt when he throws fastball after fastball, trying to blow batters away and the experience hitters who sit on his heater can take advantage of this bad habit.

Dotel fields his position well and is adept in holding base runners.

Because of his injury risk, Dotel will probably need to sign an incentive-laden contract with a low-base salary with options for future seasons contingent on him staying healthy and productive.

The Cardinals are not the only team considering signing Dotel. The Mets have also expressed an interest in bringing him back to New York.


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