Playing a Hunch: Edgar Gonzalez to St. Louis?

Currently working in the Caribbean Series, free agent right-hander Edgar Gonzalez of Mexico, late of the Arizona Diamondbacks, might be among a group of pitchers under consideration by the St. Louis Cardinals.

On "The ITD Morning After" radio show on Thursday, St. Louis Cardinals Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow noted that he had just returned from Mexico, where the Caribbean Series is underway. Luhnow and professional scout Matt Slater were there scouting free agents.

 

Playing off a discussion about the options the major league Cardinals would have as their sixth starting pitcher, Luhnow hinted that we may see the organization sign a starting pitcher or pitchers from that series very soon.

 

"We're not done looking at options there. I've spent the last three days in Mexicali, Mexico at the Caribbean World Series. There are more unsigned players in that tournament than there have been in a few years.

 

"A large part of what we were doing there was looking at some of the guys there and seeing if there was a good fit for that type of role. We're still not done. We are still having conversations and there might be a few more names to throw into that mix before next week," Luhnow predicted.

 

Of course, we need to keep this in balance as the quality of play in the series is more like Triple-A than major league caliber. Any players available will surely have both strengths and weaknesses. In other words, Chris Carpenter should not fear for his job, at least as a result of any of these potential signings.

 

I have been doing some amateur scouting during the series myself, albeit from the comfort of my living room and for the first year, in English, courtesy of MLB Network. One such player that has caught my eye is Edgar G. Gonzalez of Mexico.

 

He is not to be confused with his Caribbean Series teammate, Edgar V. Gonzalez, who played at second base for Memphis in 2007. The latter's brother, Adrian, the first baseman of the San Diego Padres, slammed three home runs on Wednesday night.

 

Not related to the brothers, Edgar G, who turns 26 years of age in two weeks, spun seven innings of shutout ball at the Venezuelan club on Tuesday. The right-hander fanned nine and walked no one as 61 of his 91 pitches went for strikes. He showed excellent movement and location on his pitches, though radar gun ratings are not shown on the telecast.

 

I don't know if the Mexicans are going with a four-man or five-man rotation, but if it is the former, then Gonzalez would get the start on Saturday in the final game of the six-day, 12-game round-robin tournament. It is scheduled at 8:00 p.m. Central time on the MLB Network.

 

Gonzalez was a career-long Arizona Diamondback before becoming a free agent this past fall.

 

Prior to reaching the series, the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder from Monterrey, Mexico, started seven games in the regular winter season for Hermosillo. Gonzalez allowed more hits than innings pitched and walked 12 along with fanning 24 in 36.1 innings. His ground to fly ball ratio was 1.08.

 

Unable to hold down a rotation spot with the Diamondbacks last summer, Gonzalez had continued trouble with the long ball, yielding eight home runs in 48 innings. He issued 21 free passes to go with 32 strikeouts and a tidy, but not pretty ERA of 6.00.

 

Jumping all the way back to 2000, Gonzalez had signed with Arizona at the age of 17, but the homesick teen left the Dominican Summer League and returned home prior to appearing in a game.

 

He didn't make his professional debut until 2002, but quickly became one of the top pitching prospects in the Arizona system. He ranked as high as #6 in 2002, according to Baseball America, and was considered to have #3 starter potential in the bigs.

 

After just a year-and-a-half of minor league seasoning, following a truly meteoric rise through the system, Gonzalez made his major league debut on June 1, 2003 at the tender age of 20, picking up the win.

 

Edgar's first extended taste of the majors was difficult. During the 2004 season as one of the youngest players in MLB, the then-21-year-old went 0-9 with a 9.32 ERA as a starter before being pulled from the rotation.

 

With a fastball in the 88-91 mph range and three other average pitches, Gonzalez is considered a movement and speed variation kind of hurler without a true knockout offering. Though he has a smooth, consistent delivery, he has never yet found the level of command that was expected from him.

 

Gonzalez spent most of 2005 and 2006 back in Triple-A, before returning to the majors for good in 2007. As a big-leaguer, he has bounced back and forth between starting and the bullpen. The right-hander started 35 games and relieved in 45 more with a career record of 14-21 with a 5.97 ERA. He has yielded 52 long balls in 257 2/3 MLB innings.

 

As I noted before, he is still just 25, but the downside is that Gonzalez worked a lot of innings at a very young age, including 250 during a nine-month period back in 2002. Gonzalez generally pitches each winter and was on the Mexican World Baseball Classic club in 2006, though he is not playing in the 2009 WBC.

 

Perhaps as a result of the heavy workload, Gonzalez comes with a built-in health warning. He was able to pitch in only 48 innings last season due to a sore elbow. Despite a long stint on the disabled list, Gonzalez decided to avoid Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery. The Diamondbacks outrighted him to Triple-A in November, but he instead opted for free agency.

 

I have no idea if the Cardinals are seriously considering Edgar G. Gonzalez, but for one night on the international stage, he looked like a much better pitcher than his checkered record would indicate.  

 

If not Gonzalez, it might be one of more of the following. Some are clearly more appealing than others.

 

 

Other standout free agent starting pitchers in the Caribbean Series

 

Right-hander Brad Knox, a minor league free agent after spending the last seven seasons in the Oakland chain, tossed 6 1/3 innings of no-hit ball for Venezuela on Tuesday. The 26-year-old fanned five and walked five and was pulled after 88 pitches. The control artist spent most of 2008 with Triple-A Sacramento, where he went 7-5 with a 5.35 ERA in 146 1/3 innings.

 

Gonzalez' Tuesday opponent representing Venezuela was 38-year-old MLB journeyman Tim Harikkala. The right-hander tossed six scoreless innings himself on just two hits. Harikkala first appeared in the bigs with the 1995 (not a typo) Seattle Mariners. He pitched for the Colorado Rockies in 2007 and in the Mexican League last summer.

 

Major league veteran Ramon Ortiz, most recently of the Colorado Rockies, yielded ten baserunners but just one earned run in seven innings for the Dominican on Monday. In four winter ball starts for Licey, Ortiz' ERA was 6.88. The 35-year-old righty is looking for work after pitching in Japan last summer. He has also pitched in the bigs with the Angels, Reds, Nationals and Twins.

 

Well-traveled Puerto Rican Hector Mercado, now 34, fanned seven and allowed just one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Dominican on Tuesday. Since last appearing in the majors with the 2003 Phillies, the right-hander has pitched in indy ball twice, passed through the Tigers and Rangers organizations and spent last summer in Mexico.

 

27-year-old Alfredo Simon from the Dominican tossed seven innings of one-run ball against Puerto Rico on Tuesday. The righty, who made his MLB debut last season, is currently Baltimore property, but may be designated for assignment as the Orioles have to make roster room for third baseman Ty Wigginton. He has also pitched in the Phillies, Giants and Rangers organizations.

 

Believe it or not, 2005 Cardinal Bill Pulsipher is still pitching. For Puerto Rico against Mexico Thursday night, the 34-year-old former Generation K hurler got ahead of most hitters showing a good slider and curve. The lefty went 6 1/3 one-run innings and fanned seven.

 

Of this latter group, Knox and Simon, if he becomes available, seem most interesting.

 

 

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnation.com.

 

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