It had been thought that Narveson would start on Friday against the New York Mets perhaps to showcase him to attract potential trade offers, or as a step toward completing a deal already in the works.
The 25-year-old left-hander is now removed from the Cardinals 40-man roster and will report to Memphis if he clears waivers. If he is claimed by one of the 29 other organizations, he must remain on their major league roster. This is because Narveson is out of minor league options.
Narveson has seen very limited playing time in spring training this month. The master plan early on appeared to be that the Cardinals were going to limit his exposure to scouts and try to hold onto him until the last minute before reassigning him to the minors and therefore exposing him to waiver process. Now, that last minute appears to have come a bit earlier than expected.
This strategy could work, because most clubs are facing their own problems in whittling down to their 25 man rosters without adding another player to try to evaluate in just a few short days before Opening Day.
If the Cardinals could sneak Narveson through with him being claimed, he would return to Memphis and pitch for the Redbirds this season and be available if needed in St. Louis to fill a bullpen slot or make a spot start if necessary. However, to come back up, he would need to be re-added to the 40-man first.
Last season, Narveson battled shoulder injuries, yet still managed to pitch well at two minor league levels and even make a spot start for St. Louis during the pennant race.
Narveson, a second round draft pick in 2000, underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2001 season. He came back and pitched in the Cardinals minor league system for two seasons, before being traded to Colorado in 2004 as part of a deal that brought outfielder Larry Walker to St. Louis.
In a 2005 spring training deal, the Rockies traded Narveson along with Charles Johnson and cash to the Boston Red Sox for Byung-Hyun Kim. St. Louis eventually claimed him off waivers from the Red Sox on August 8, when Boston attempted to pass him through waivers. This is something the Cardinals hope they will be successful at this time, where the Red Sox failed last time.
Narveson underwent surgery again, this time to repair his labrum following the season and did not return until late May, 2007. After posting an 8-5, 2.81 ERA record at Memphis, the Cardinals made him a September call-up. He appeared in four games for St. Louis, including one start and finished the season with a 0-0 won-loss record and a 4.82 ERA. Opponents managed to hit only .176 (6-for-34) against him in that limited Major League action.
In December, the staff at www.thestlcardinals.com ranked Narveson as the Cardinals #6 prospect.
Brian Falkenborg, a second round draft pick of the Orioles in 1996, has spent time in the Mariners, Dodgers, and San Diego systems before joining the Cardinals organization in August 2005. Including his five games with the Cardinals in 2006, Falkenborg has appeared in a total of 23 Major League games, having made it to the bigs with each organization. He posted a 6.23 ERA in 34 2/3 Major League innings and a 4.29 ERA in 221 minor league games.
Falkenborg's contract was purchased from Triple-A Memphis on May 2, 2006. Optioned back to Memphis on May 20, he would remain there for the rest of the season, after appearing in five games while with the big club. With the Cardinals, he posted a record of 0-1 and a 2.84 ERA in 6 1/3 innings pitched. With Memphis, he appeared in 47 games posting an ERA of 4.18. The 29-year old allowed 51 hits, striking out 53 and walking 15 in 51 2/3 innings and saved 16 games as the Redbirds' closer.
Unlike Narveson, Falkenborg has the right to declare his free agency if he goes through waivers unclaimed. This is due to him having been previously outrighted. However, unless there is some broken glass with the Cardinals for some unknown reason, this seems to be a less-likely scenario since the other 29 clubs would have just passed on him when they could have picked him up for $1 via waivers.
Assuming Falkenborg reports to Memphis, he will face a very crowded bullpen there. At this point, the club is expected to have two other closers on the roster, Mike Sillman and Mark Worrell, both of whom are up-and-coming prospects.
Still, no matter what role the players assume, there should be plenty of opportunities in Memphis to pitch in meaningful situations during the 2007 season. How they perform in those environments will determine where they stand in the pecking order for potential call-ups to St. Louis later on.
While these clearly represent challenges for the Cardinals, overall they have to be considered positive ones.
A side benefit in the Narveson/Falkenborg moves is that two spots on the 40-man roster, which was previously full, have now been opened up. That has to be considered positive news for those non-roster invitees still in camp and actively competing for jobs, such as utilityman Eli Marrero and reliever Kelvin Jimenez. Remember that for an NRI to make the season-opening 25-man roster, he would first have to be added to the 40-man.
Following Thursday's moves, the Cardinals have 35 players remaining in camp - 15 pitchers (for at most 12 spots) and 20 position players (for at most 13 spots). The latter includes nine infielders, seven outfielders and four catchers.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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