Cardinals release two, send down three

The St. Louis Cardinals dropped five from big league camp on Sunday. Alex Cora and Koyie Hill were released. Mark Hamilton, Eduardo Sanchez and Matt Adams were cut.

The St. Louis Cardinals announced their fifth set of spring cuts on Sunday. Two non-roster players have been given their unconditional release and three prospects have been shifted to minor league camp, including two 40-man roster players.

Veteran non-roster invitees infielder Alex Cora and catcher Koyie Hill have been released. First baseman Mark Hamilton and pitcher Eduardo Sanchez have been optioned to Triple-A Memphis and non-roster first baseman Matt Adams has been re-assigned to minor league camp.

The Cardinals were approaching the March 30 date by which they needed to make a decision on Cora, anyway. The infielder was an Article XX(B) MLB free-agent – a player on a Major League contract at the end of last season and with at least six years of MLB service time.

The new competitive bargaining agreement between players and ownership created a new deadline for teams to make roster decisions for these Article XX(B) free agents who signed minor league contracts for the next season. They would be eligible for a $100,000 retention bonus unless their team releases them no later than the fifth day prior to MLB Opening Day or adds them to their 25-man roster by Opening Day.

Further, Cora's contract with the Cardinals called for an $800,000 salary had he been added to the active roster, according to the AP.

Reliever Scott Linebrink, still in camp, is the Cardinals' other Article XX(B) free agent. Sanchez' being optioned out would seem to indicate improved chances of Linebrink coming north with the Cardinals. Hill does not yet have six years of service time, so does not qualify.

The three youngsters sent down Sunday ranked among The Cardinal Nation's top 20 organizational prospects coming into the 2012 season. Sanchez is ranked seventh, Adams ninth and Hamilton is 20th.

Hill, 33, a former Dodgers, D'Backs and Cubs backstop, signed a minor league deal on January 10. His spring batting average was .188 (3-for-16).

Cora, 36, signed a minor league contract on February 6. The former Dodgers, Blue Jays, Indians, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers and Nationals player played all four infield positions in spring camp for the Cardinals, but the switch-hitter batted just .208 (5-for-24).

The optioning of Sanchez, 23, seemed a surprise. The right-hander did not allow a run in eight innings over seven games and logged a 14:5 strikeout to walk ratio.

Hamilton, 27, missed almost 10 days of spring action due to a quad injury. The left-handed hitter had a single and double in 12 at-bats (.167).

Adams, 23, the reigning Player of the Year in the Cardinals system, was the recipient of many of the at-bats that Hamilton lost. The left-handed hitter went 10-for-36 (.278) with a double, triple, two home runs and eight RBI. Adams also fanned 10 times.

Following these moves, the Cardinals have 32 players remaining in Major League Spring Training camp. 29 are members of the 40-man roster and three are non-roster invitees. That includes injured players Chris Carpenter and Skip Schumaker. The Cardinals began camp with a total of 60 players – 39 from the 40-man and 21 NRIs.

The final 32 is made up of 14 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders and seven outfielders. To see the entire list, check out the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog.

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his minor league features during the season at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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