Cardinals Unearth Zink

St. Louis Cardinals add Triple-A depth by signing 30-year-old knuckleballer Charlie Zink to a minor league deal for 2010.

What was the youngest team in all of Triple-A in 2009, the Memphis Redbirds, got older in 2010 as the St. Louis Cardinals signed 30-year-old right-handed pitcher Charlie Zink to a minor league contract, reports It includes an invitation to major league spring training camp.

The knuckleballer follows a well-worn path of former Boston Red Sox players to St. Louis in recent years, including Joel Pineiro, Matt Clement, John Smoltz, Brad Penny and Julio Lugo. Zink, a California native, was signed by the Red Sox in 2002 at the recommendation of Luis Tiant, who coached him at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Prior to joining the Sox organization, Zink had a brief stint in independent ball in 2001 and considered a professional golf career.

Converted to a knuckleballer in 2003, Zink was on the fast path early on. He earned the Pitcher of the Year Award while pitching for Sarasota that season. He leapt to Double-A Portland before pitching in the prestigious Arizona Fall League to conclude the 2003 season.

Zink made a brief showing as a top Red Sox prospect, appearing in the Baseball America top 30 ranking at #17 among Boston farmhands prior to the 2004 campaign. By 2005, Zink fell off BA's list, never to return.

Zink's momentum slowed as he spent most of the 2004 and 2005 seasons with Portland, before moving up to Triple-A Pawtucket for a four-game introduction. Zink returned to the AFL in 2005.

Swinging between starting and relieving in 2006, Zink pitched a majority of the year with Pawtucket, but began 2007 in Portland again before climbing back to Pawtucket for eight starts. He remained in Triple-A for the entire 2008 and 2009 seasons with the exception of single major league start on August 12, 2008. Zink allowed eight earned runs in 4 1/3 innings for the Red Sox against Texas.

One year after posting a career-best 14 wins, making the mid- and post-season All-Star teams and winning the International League Pitcher of the Year Award, Zink suffered through a terrible 2009. It began as he was removed from Boston's 40-man roster when outrighted to Pawtucket on January 10, 2009.

Last season, he would go on to win just six games and lose a career-worst 15 while posting a 5.59 ERA, his highest since 2004. Zink walked a whopping 93 and fanned just 47 in 135 1/3 innings. Throwing the unpredictable knuckler, he hit 30 opposing batters last season alone.

Over his nine-year minor league career, Zink has a 63-60 career record with a 4.25 ERA in 222 games, including 153 starts. It would seem he is being added to provide veteran innings with Triple-A Memphis in 2010.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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