Rincon Cleared to Play with No Restrictions

Rincon pitched in just five games for the Cardinals last season before having surgery performed on his labrum and rotator cuff by Dr. George Paletta the club's Orthopedic Consultant.

Ricardo Rincon, a lefty specialist with a lifetime ERA of 3.58, who is recovering from both Tommy John and shoulder surgeries, has reported to spring training, ready to begin workouts to prepare for the 2007 season.

"I've been told that Rincon will join us and be part of the program just like everybody else," St. Louis Cardinals' pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "With no restrictions."

Prior to the 2006 season, Rincon had held left-handed batters to a .208 (158-for-759) batting average in his career and allowed just a .203 (95-for-468)career batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP), including .184 (41 ofr-223) with RISP with two outs, which promted the Cardinals to sign him.

Last season Rincon was the last player to arrive at spring training, due to reported visa problems with his native Mexico. He then left camp early, against the club's wishes, to participate in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa blames the World Baseball Classic for Rincon's injury: "I think that's a consequence of pitching competitively before you're ready. I have no agenda. I just look at it. When you can't do the work in between your appearances, and that's one of the things our guys are religious about, when you can't do it, you start showing weakness, what other conclusion can you draw?"

Rincon signed a two-year deal with St. Louis in December of 2005 for $2.9 million. Prior to signing with the Cardinals and missing most of last season, Rincon had averaged 67 appearances a season over the previous five years.

The Cardinals will probably carry three left-handed relievers this season, with the veteran Rincon joining Tyler Johnson and Randy Flores the only other lefty veteran on the Cardinals 40-man roster.

Rincon will be given every chance this spring to make the team again. It's possible, but not very likely, that the team would eat the $1.45 million remaining on his contract if he has a bad spring.

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