Cards Sign Three Familiar Names for Minors

The St. Louis Cardinals re-signed two returning minor leaguers and the son of a Hall of Famer for 2008. They also beefed up their international management team with two hirings.

The St. Louis Cardinals added some organizational depth via some familiar names when announcing the re-signing of right-handed reliever Hugo Castellanos and third baseman Rico Washington to minor league deals for 2008. The two will be invited to big league spring camp in March.

They bring to six the number of these kinds of deals this winter. Previously reported were the signings of pitchers Dewon Brazelton, John Wasdin and Ron Flores along with catcher Mark Johnson.

In addition to the Castellanos and Washington deals, the Cardinals purchased the contract of outfielder Chris Gibson from the Gateway Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League. Gibson, 23, is the son of Cardinals Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson.

Gibson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound left-handed hitter from Bellevue, Nebraska, attended Southeast Missouri State University. In two seasons with the Redhawks, Gibson batted .223 with 32 runs batted in. He also stole 15 bases in 19 attempts. He then batted .260 in 61 games in his rookie season with Gateway in the summer of 2007.

Known then as Robert Gibson, he was originally drafted out of high school by the Cardinals in the 47th round in 2002. Instead of signing, he enrolled in Pratt Community College in Pratt, Kansas before joining Southeast Missouri State.

"Chris had attended a workout with the Cardinals prior to the 2004 draft and was a player that we had considered drafting that year, but ultimately felt he was better served by further developing his tools," Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch said. "We saw definite improvement from his time spent with the Grizzlies and feel that he is now much more prepared to successfully move into our minor league system."

Hugo Castellanos appeared in 37 games for Memphis last season and went 3-1 with a 3.49 ERA. The right-hander is currently is pitching in the Mexican Winter League, where he has posted a 1.17 ERA (23.0 IP / 3 ER) with six saves in 27 outings out of the bullpen for Obregon.

Castellanos began his professional career in 1996 with the Tampa Bay organization. He then moved to Toronto, for whom he pitched from 2000-2003, making it as far as Triple-A. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder pitched in the Cubs system in 2004 and 2006 at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

The 27-year-old first signed with the Cardinals in February, 2007 and spent most of the season with Memphis, along with nine games out of Springfield's pen. Overall in 46 appearances, he posted a 3.33 ERA, fanning 44 but walking 39 in 67 2/3 innings pitched. Castellanos became a minor league free agent following the season.

29-year-old Rico Washington is currently batting .311 with seven home runs and 32 RBI in the Venezuelan Winter League. His 2007 season was shortened by a left knee strain, as he began the year with Double-A Springfield and then hit .315 after a promotion to Memphis in mid-April.

A 10th round draft pick of the Pirates in 1997, Washington has also spent time in the San Diego and Tampa Bay organizations. He first signed with the Cardinals in January, 2006. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound third baseman hit .284/.393/.494 with 18 home runs and 76 RBI combined between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis in 2006. Washington returned to the Cardinals for the 2007 season after re-signing as a minor league free agent, just as repeated this year.

Two management signings
In other news, the Cardinals hired Moises Rodriguez as director of international operations and Juan Mercado as Latin American scouting supervisor.

Rodriguez arrives from Major League Baseball's central offices in New York, where he was employed since 1998. He had handled international baseball operations issues for MLB since December 2003, most recently under the title of manager, International Baseball Operations. The 34-year-old is a native of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico and a graduate of the University of Connecticut.

Mercado worked the last several years as an international scout with the New York Mets. While with New York, he scouted and signed current Mets players Jose Reyes and Carlos Gomez. The 34-year-old resides in Santiago, Dominican Republic.

"These hirings will help take our Latin American program to the next level," said Cardinals Vice President of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow. "We have made strides in Latin America, however finding and developing the best talent starts with having the right people in place and both Moises and Juan have strong track records and their experience and skills should help us be even more successful in the Latin American marketplace."

Brian Walton can be reached via email at

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