Hancock Signs Cardinals' Declaration

Pitcher Josh Hancock, a recent cut of the Reds, has been invited to Cardinals' camp.

On Tuesday, the Cardinals announced they have invited right-handed pitcher Josh Hancock to their spring training camp on a minor league contract, pending the results of a physical exam.

Hancock, 27, was given the heave-ho by the Cincinnati Reds last week when he reportedly arrived in camp 17 pounds above his requested reporting weight of 207.

The swingman missed most of last season with a groin injury suffered in spring training. He went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 11 games for the Reds in 2005 and owns a career mark of 6-3 with a 4.40 ERA in 32 games, of which 12 were starts.

Hancock also appeared at Triple-A Louisville last year, where he went 1-2 with a 5.93 ERA in 11 games, eight of which were starts. While in the minors, he missed time due to a recurrence of that groin injury and added elbow problems on top of it. The Reds questioned Hancock's commitment to stay in shape and remain healthy.

Hancock is said to have a good slider and left-right movement on his fastball, but while his velocity can hit 91-94 MPH, it is not considered overpowering. His change-up is also serviceable. However, Hancock is the kind of finesse pitcher who has little room for error. When his offerings are down the middle, opponent home runs ensue. As a major leaguer, Hancock has served up 18 long balls in just 88 1/3 innings pitched.

Said Cardinals' Senior Vice President/General Manager Walt Jocketty, "It's still early and he's got a good arm. We'll give him a look and put him in the mix with the other non-roster pitchers who are competing for spots on our roster."

A native of Vestavia Hills, Alabama, Hancock has seen big league action with the Red Sox (2002), Phillies (2003-04) and Reds. He was drafted by Boston in the fifth round of the June 1998 free-agent draft from Auburn University.

Hancock has had injury problems off and on during his career. He missed time in 2002 with a broken jaw and his 2003 season started late due to pelvic surgery that winter. Still, after joining the Phillies in a December, 2002 trade with Boston for Jeremy Giambi, Hancock was ranked as the Phils' 21st-ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2002 and jumped up to 18 the next year. He moved to the Reds during the 2004 season in a multi-player trade for Todd Jones.

This is another low-risk reclamation project, the kind of which Jocketty has come to be known for. However, it is difficult to imagine Hancock writing his name onto the Cardinals' 2006 opening day roster. He was issued number 67, another indication of his long-shot status.

At this point, the Cardinals need to ensure Hancock stays away from fellow rebounder and rotund pitcher Sidney Ponson and the buffet line, while hoping he can work himself into pitching shape in Memphis.

Perhaps Hancock can contribute down the road. If not, likely no harm will be caused by his signing.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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