Cardinals Add Velez, Swindle on Minors Deals

One of Velez' 37 hitless at-bats in Dodger blue

The St. Louis Cardinals added Triple-A filler in a pair of minor league veterans with MLB experience.

The St. Louis Cardinals have signed two players to minor league contracts for 2012, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. They are infielder/outfielder Eugenio Velez and left-handed pitcher R.J. Swindle.

Velez
Velez is a 29-year-old Dominican who first came up with the 2007 San Francisco Giants after moving to that organization from Toronto in the minor league phase of the 2005 Rule 5 Draft. He first suited up for the Jays in the 2002 Dominican Summer League after signing his initial contract in August 2001.

Primarily a second baseman, the switch-hitter has also played a significant amount of time in left field and even a bit of center but has never spent an entire season as a major leaguer.

2011 was no exception. In his first year with the Dodgers after leaving the Giants, he was bad, incredibly bad. In 40 plate appearances over 34 games for Los Angeles, Velez reached base just three times. Two were via a walk and the other was a hit-by-pitch. The rest of the time, he went 0-for-37, including 11 strikeouts. His line was .000/.075/.075.

For the Dodgers' Triple-A club in Albuquerque last season, Velez had 31 RBI and 33 runs scored in 55 games. His line was .339/.371/.463. He is currently playing for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League, with whom his line is .250/.336/.370 in 108 at-bats.

Velez
Coming up, Velez was celebrated for his base-stealing, which accelerated dramatically after his move from the Jays to the Giants. In his first year in San Francisco's system, 2006, he drove in 90 and swiped 64 bases and was named the Sally League's Most Valuable Player. He added another 54 bags in Double-A (where he was an Eastern League All-Star) and Triple-A the next year. His base-stealing days are apparently behind him, however, as Velez dropped to just 7-for-13 in that category in 2011.

Velez had been named by Baseball America as the Giants' seventh-best prospect following the 2007 campaign. He also earned a spot on the Arizona Fall League's Top Prospects Team that year, but has never been able to put it together in the majors.

With the Cardinals, Velez seems destined to play what I call the Junior Spivey Memorial Role. As such, I project him to be the next in a long line of former major league second basemen on their way down who end up playing second for the Redbirds, but will probably not make it back to the majors. Others recently making cameo appearances in the role include D'Angelo Jimenez (2008), Ruben Gotay (2010) and both Ramon Vazquez and Freddie Bynum (2011).

Swindle
Veteran lefty R.J. Swindle has also signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals, following in the footsteps of last year's Memphis left-handed reliever, Rich Rundles. He is expected to join the recent minor league Rule 5 addition, Barret Browning, to play the veteran lefty role the 2012 Memphis bullpen.

To say the 28-year-old is well-traveled is a colossal understatement. Taken by the Red Sox in the 14th round in 2004, Swindle then pitched in independent ball in each of the next three years after being released from the Sox and Yankees. The Vancouver-born hurler also pitched in the 2006 Beijing Olympics for Team Canada and in the Venezuelan Winter League. He then joined the Phillies system in 2007 and 2008.

Swindle
Swindle threw in Triple-A for the Brewers and Indians in 2009 and with Durham, the Tampa Bay Rays' Triple-A club, in each of the last two seasons. He has a total of 252 games played in the minor leagues during which he has a 2.36 ERA and 496 strikeouts in 493 2/3 innings pitched.

His 30 minutes of fame came in two 15-minute increments. Swindle appeared in a total of nine major league games, three with the 2008 Phillies and six with the Brewers the next season. He was hammered in both stints, with a career MLB ERA of 12.71 in 11 1/3 mound innings. Swindle's first MLB hitter faced was David Wright, who homered against him.

Earlier this winter, Swindle had a short appearance with Algodoneros de Guasave in the Mexican Pacific League. It did not go well as he went 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA over seven innings.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Look for his weekly minor league column during the season at FOXSportsMidwest.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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