Cardinals Sign Russ Springer

The World Champion St. Louis Cardinals today announced the signing of free agent pitcher Russ Springer to a one-year contract. Springer returns to St. Louis, where he played briefly in 2003 before spending the last three seasons with the Houston Astros.

Springer, 38, is a 14-year veteran with a career mark of 25-39 and 4.94 ERA in 518 games (27 starts). He pitched in a career-high 72 games last season for the Astros, 10 more than his previous high of 62 games in 2005. Springer went 1-1 with a 3.47 ERA (59.2 IP / 23 ER) in 2006 and held opponents to a .211 batting average, including holding right-handed batters to a .187 batting average. He was solid on the road, posting a 2.78 ERA away from Minute Maid Park. The Louisiana native did not allow a run in 10 of his last 11 outings from Sept. 9 - Oct. 1 (1.08 ERA, 8.1 IP / ER).

"Russ is someone we are very familiar with and have liked for some time," said Cardinals Senior Vice President and General Manager Walt Jocketty. "He allows us to be more versatile out of the bullpen and adds another veteran presence to the relief corps."

Most notable among Springer's time in St. Louis was earning the win in the 2003 season opener versus Milwaukee on March 31, his only victory while with the Cardinals. He would later be sent to the disabled list with a strained ligament in his right elbow that limited him to 17 games in St. Louis.

Springer has appeared in 14 postseason games and pitched in two World Series; in 1999 with the Atlanta Braves and 2005 with the Astros.

Springer, 38, had hoped to re-sign with Houston, but the Astros, but they did not offer him arbitration and they indicated that they were not interested in bringing the veteran right-hander back to Houston.

"I've got mixed emotions," Springer said. "Some of my best friends in baseball are in Houston. I love the city and the fans are great. But the bottom line is Houston didn't offer me a contract. It's time to move on. There are no hard feelings.

Rotoworld describes Springer as "He's basically Braden Looper without the ability to go multiple innings on occasion. He's also no sure thing to stay healthy. Still, at $1.75 million, he's a fine investment.

Manager Tony La Russa disclosed this week that his World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals could conceivably explore a host of current relievers for starting roles next season, including Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper, who never has started a game in nine major league seasons."We're going to go into spring training and stretch out Adam, Braden, Brad [Thompson] even Josh [Kinney]," La Russa said. "We'll see how they do."

The Cardinals envision Springer as someone they could turn to as late as the seventh or eighth innings, and his signing may mean that the Cardinals are serious about moving a member of the bullpen into the starting rotation in 2007.

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