Minor League Notebook: Michael Moving On

News, Notes and Injury updates from around the Cardinals minor league system.

Many people were surprised to see Mark Michael's name on the list of 10 minor league players released from the Cardinals organization on Monday.

Ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the system by the Birdhouse prior to the 2006 season, Michael has been plagued by arm problems each of the past three seasons; rotator cuff surgery in 2004, shoulder tendinitis in 2005 and nerve irritation in his elbow in 2006.

The Cardinals gave him a $220,550 signing bonus as a fourth round pick in 2004. Armed with a mid-90s heater, Michael has a 3.98 ERA to go along with 303 strikeouts in 380 innings in the minor leagues. He spent the past two seasons with High-A Palm Beach.

A starter in those four seasons, Michael was moved to the bullpen this spring. He had appeared in five games for the Double-A Springfield squad and had even been used to backup the bullpen in a few of the major league games.

Michael has returned home, but is not ready to give up on baseball just yet. He will work out with his high school team while fielding perspective offers from other organizations. One possibility is that he could sign with the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League for the time being, a team that has signed several other former Cardinals farmhands for the 2007 season: Josh Axelson, Nick Stocks, Matt DeMarco and Jason Conti.

Japanese Pitcher

According to the Springfield News-Leader, the Cardinals worked out 25-year-old Japanese right-hander Kazuaki Minami on Monday. Making his debut in a High-A exhibition game against the Florida Marlins, he allowed two hits in two innings of work.

"This time of year we have a lot of calls from guys who are looking for jobs," St. Louis farm director Jeff Luhnow told the newspaper. "And we still have to decide on our own guys. We don't want to take an unknown commodity over a known commodity."

Minami, who appeared in two games for the Yomiuari Giants in 2004, worked out for the Baltimore Orioles last month but did not receive a contract offer. According to Roch Kubatko, a sportswriter for the Baltimore Sun, "His fastball didn't appear to touch 90 mph, and his best pitch was his slider. He wasn't overly impressive."

"Right now, we don't see having a spot for him in the organization, but if that changes, we'll get in contact with him," Orioles vice president Jim Duquette said at the time.

Position Changes

Several notable position changes have occurred in the minor league system since the start of spring training. The Cardinals have shifted right-handers Donnie Smith and Nick Webber from the rotation to the bullpen.

While those might have been expected, a more surprising move was Brandon Yarbrough from catcher to the outfield on a part-time basis, a move designed to allow him to get less fatigued and stay in the line-up. With Yadier Molina in the majors and top prospect Bryan Anderson, the Cardinals appear to be set at the catching position for quite some time.

Injury report

• Outfielder Cody Haerther could miss six to 12 weeks of the season because of a ligament strain in his right wrist according to a report in the News-Leader. Injured when he was hit on the wrist in big-league camp, Hearther said he received an anti-inflammatory shot Monday.

• Right-hander Stuart Pomeranz has been limited due to shoulder stiffness this spring, but took an encouraging step forward on Wednesday, playing catch for the first time since leaving a game in the middle of an innings last Thursday. It is unclear when he will make his next game appearance.

• Right-hander Tyler Leach, the Cardinals 39th round draft pick in 2005, missed the entire 2006 season due to Tommy John surgery. He is on the Quad Cities roster this spring, but as of Monday, had yet to appear in a game.

• Right-hander Kenny Maiques, who was limited to just one start last season, also underwent Tommy John surgery. This marked the second time in two years that the 21-year-old had the procedure performed, and is the reason that he did not pitch after being drafted in the 37th round by the Cardinals in 2005. As of Monday, he had appeared in four spring training games for Quad Cities.

• 2005 17th round draft pick Mike Cooper missed the entire 2006 season due to right shoulder surgery.

Jason Scott can be reached via email at jasonscott@thecardinalnation.com.

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