Cardinals Execute More Minors Player Moves

The St. Louis Cardinals have sent three more players down to the minor leagues, two others plan to retire, one has been excused, while three others are home nursing injuries.

Three players have left St. Louis Cardinals Major League camp. They are first baseman Josh Phelps, second baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir and outfielder Cody Haerther. Phelps came into contract on a minor league deal and was assigned to the minors while Haerther and Hoffpauir, added to the 40-man roster over the winter, were optioned out.

The three join 162 other players in Cardinals minor league camp. Detailed minor league working rosters can be viewed here.

With these moves, the major league spring roster is down to 43 players, of which 25 are pitchers and 18 are position players. 34 are rostered on the 40-man while nine non-roster invitees survive.

The injured

Due to the sheer volume of players, three players were allowed to remain home from minor league camp while recovering from injury. They are pitchers Mike Sillman and Brian Stitt and second baseman Jaime Landin.

Stitt, 25, is expected to return sometime this May. He hasn't pitched since last May due to an elbow problem. The right-hander appeared in just ten games last season for Springfield, posting a 4.67 ERA.

Landin, 25 next month, suffered a shoulder injury that precluded him from playing winter ball. He competed for Quad Cities last season after coming to camp as an undrafted free agent for the second consecutive season.

Sillman, 26, also missed considerable time due to injury in 2007. He was placed on the disabled list on September 1 due to tightness in his right forearm and prior to that, was out with shoulder problems. After beginning the year with Memphis, Sillman was transferred to Springfield in July after completing a rehab assignment in the Gulf Coast League.

The excused

Catcher Steve Gonzalez was excused to take care of a family emergency back home in Puerto Rico.

The retired

Two others are not in camp due to pending decisions to retire. They are third baseman Travis Hanson and pitcher Clay Long.

Long, 22, had been signed as a non-drafted free agent in June, 2007 and posted a 0-6 record with a 4.66 ERA starting and relieving for the Batavia Muckdogs of the short-season New York-Penn League.

Hanson, 27, was the Cardinals Minor League Player of the Year in 2005, and played in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA that fall. All that culminated in him being added to the 40-man roster that winter.

Hanson began 2006 with Triple-A Memphis, but after hitting just .220/.282/.291 in 67 games, he was sent down to Double-A Springfield, where he spent the rest of the season, hitting just .226 in 66 games. His woes continued in 2007 when a nagging back injury limited him to just 82 games. In them, Hanson hit just .217 with four home runs and 14 RBI. The third baseman was removed from the Cardinals 40-man roster in August.

The optioned out

Hoffpauir, a second baseman, was drafted by the Cardinals in the sixth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft after starring at Southern Mississippi. Coming out of Spring Training 2007, Hoffpauir repeated Double-A Springfield and made the best of it. In 61 Texas League games, he hit .345/.420/.527 (AVG/OBP/SLG). Coming off batting .410 in June, Hoffpauir was assigned to Triple-A Memphis on July 4.

For the year between the two levels, Hoffpauir finished with a line of .323/.407/.473 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs. Even more impressive is his total of 55 walks compared to only 39 strikeouts – the only player in the entire Cardinals minor league system whose walk count exceeded his strikeouts.

He was invited to the Arizona Fall League, but did not get the chance to play regularly and struggled, with just one extra-base hit in 55 at-bats. Hoffpauir was added to the Cardinals' 40-man roster in November, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.

In a crowded middle infield derby this spring, Hoffpauir didn't have a decent chance. He went 1-for-6 with a sacrifice fly, two walks and two strikeouts. The 24-year-old should be a regular in Memphis in 2008.

Update: Outfielder Cody Haerther was also optioned out between the two weekend games in Orlando, but it was not announced by the club until now.

To put it mildly, Haerther is coming off an unusual winter. Still ranked as our number 27 prospect in the Cardinals system, the 24-year-old left two different organizations in less than a week during November, only to end up right back where he started.

Haerther was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays as the Cardinals tried to pass him through. After just two days on the Jays' 40-man, they designated Haerther for assignment in order to make room for another player. He was placed back on waivers, with the Cardinals exercising their right to reclaim him.

Just 12 months earlier, in November, 2006, the Cards first added Haerther to their 40-man roster. Since then, he suffered through a wasted 2007 season, starting with a wrist injury suffered in the very first spring training contest that limited him to 41 games last season.

This spring, he went 1–for-6 with a double and a strikeout in five major league games.

The reassigned

First baseman Phelps, 29, is well-traveled, having been the property of the Toronto, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Baltimore, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations. The latter two occurred in 2007. In fact, Phelps was the Yanks' Opening Day 2007 starter at first base, but he was waived in June and finished strongly after being claimed by the Bucs.

This spring, however, the cards were stacked against Phelps, who can only play first base and reserve catcher in the National League. With no versatility by being able to play multiple positions, there is no room for Phelps on the 25-man roster. He seems destined to be kept ready in Memphis in case the unthinkable occurs with Albert Pujols' elbow.

This spring, Phelps was hitless in 11 at-bats. Over his MLB career, Phelps has put together a .273/.344/.476 line in 1360 career MLB at-bats. He also has 2952 minor league ABs, including the entire 2006 season.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

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