Late Changes in the Cardinals Minors

The St. Louis Cardinals have devised a creative way to ensure more of their minor league starting pitching prospects receive valuable playing time this season. In addition, Amaury Marti and Chris Russ are on the way to Mexico, three pitchers and a catcher have been released, Randy Roth is at a career crossroads and more!

Marti and Russ to Mexico

Cuban émigré Amaury Marti had been penciled into the mix at Springfield, but instead will start the 2007 season on loan to the new Minatitlán Petroleros of the Mexican League. The 28/32-year-old put up a very nice .321/.345/.679 (BA/OBP/SLG) line in spring training with five home runs and 14 RBIs. However, he would have been stuck behind Reid Gorecki, Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus in the Springfield outfield.

Marti remains under Cardinals control and therefore can be recalled if needed. We'll be keeping an eye on his work in Mexico and reporting the results here. He was named the Cardinals organization's 23rd-ranked prospect by over the winter.

Right-handed pitcher Chris Russ will be a teammate of Marti at Minatitlán in a similar arrangement. Russ, 28, joined the organization in 2003 after being released by the Yankees. He pitched out of the Springfield bullpen in 2006 and has a 3.80 ERA in 180 career games, all in relief.

Look for another roster move affecting Springfield in the next day or two to replace Marti. On the other hand, Russ is not listed on the initial 24-man roster posted today here.

Yarbrough's Role Expands

In our last roster update, Brandon Yarbrough was listed as an outfielder. The reality is that he will he will remain a catcher, but become one who also plays outfield and designated hitter with Palm Beach.

Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch explains. "Yarbrough is adding outfield to his positions, but will not be giving up catching. There is some concern that the catching workload was affecting the offensive side of his game, so he'll split time between catching, the outfield, and DH to see if he can recapture some of the offensive production that he had earlier in his career.

"Everything else remains the same - the goal is to have a somewhat reduced workload, similar to what he had last year where he split the games behind the plate with Bryan Anderson in the first half of the Quad Cities season. So far this spring, Yarbrough has been swinging the bat well (.306/.375/.389 in spring training), so there's definitely some optimism about the move," Vuch said.

Releases Include Pena, Repole, Borne and Hernandez

In mid-March, the Cardinals had cut loose pitchers Alex Pena and Mike Repole. The final cuts of spring training were made on Sunday when pitcher Danny Borne and catcher Michel Hernandez were released.

Pena, 29, had been originally signed as an outfielder by the Pirates, but pitched in independent ball in recent seasons. The right-hander allowed five earned runs in 1 2/3 innings prior to his release.

Repole had been selected in the 14th round of the June, 2005 First-Year Player Draft and pitched for short-season New Jersey and State College the past two seasons, posting a 5.49 ERA in relief. The right-handed reliever allowed three earned runs in 4 2/3 spring innings.

Borne, a 23-year-old lefty, was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent in July of 2005. He appeared in Johnson City and Quad Cities the last two seasons posting a 3.17 ERA in relief.

Hernandez had been removed from the Cardinals 40-man roster following the 2006 season and was supplanted in Memphis by Brian Esposito and free-agent signee Ryan Christianson. In addition, Eli Marrero is expected to come off the disabled list soon.

Vuch explained that the organization really tried to make their releases as early as possible in the spring to enable players to sign elsewhere. We'll be back soon with a report on those various re-landings.

Roth Remains in Limbo

As reported first on our fine Message Board this past weekend, Randy Roth left camp and at this point, is not listed on any roster.

Roth was rumored to be unhappy about a potential assignment to Palm Beach and was reportedly asked to work out in the outfield after having played the corner infield positions and catching as well. Roth hit .260/.315/.380 this spring.

The Cardinals organization has until the start of the season to set Roth's designation, but that is up to the player, once he decides his immediate future. Among his options are to return, retire or be placed on the suspended/restricted list.

The 25-year-old was named the Cardinals organization's 34th-ranked prospect by over the winter.

Tandem/Piggyback Starting Rotation in the Plans for QC

Again, if you are not checking out our Message Board, you are missing out on the hottest Cardinals news around.

Confirming a rumor posted there yesterday, the Quad Cities club will start the 2007 season with eight pitchers sharing starting roles, with two appearing every fourth day. The pitchers involved are Brandon Dickson, Shaun Garceau, Elvis Hernandez, Tyler Herron, Blake King, Mike Schellinger, P.J. Walters and the sole left-hander, Brad Furnish.

This appears to be a very creative way to deal with a desirable pitching surplus. Vuch explains. "Four groups of two players will be pitching every fourth day. One time, one guy will be going longer, then the second time around, they would flip. So, they will all experience pitching early in games and later in games.

"I think it is something that with the young starters we have, we can see more of them as starters and get more regular work without really affecting anyone's workload too much. You have to protect the younger guys, yet put them in situations where they have to use all their pitches more often," Vuch said.

But, don't think the Cardinals are locked into the experiment. They will be watching closely and will modify plans as appropriate.

"At least that is how we are going to start the season. We aren't locked into that for the full season, necessarily. If we have guys show they are more capable of handing the starting role or they separate themselves from the pack, then they might be given a bit more freedom to go deeper into games or as a starter every fifth day," concluded Vuch.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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