Cardinals Major League Notebook: 01/28/12

New Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran says he joined the club for the best shot to play in his first World Series after his two earlier playoff clubs were both eliminated by St. Louis.

INSIDE PITCH

 

After signing a two-year, $26 million deal with full no-trade protection, new center fielder Carlos Beltran said there had been four other challengers for his services.

But he made it clear he thought the Cardinals represented the best shot for him to go his first World Series.

"It was a team I had a lot of interest in this offseason," said Beltran, who opened last year with the New York Mets before being traded in July to the San Francisco Giants.

"Right now I'm just looking forward to being with a team that can go to the playoffs and the World Series."

Beltran, 34, has reached the postseason only twice during a 14-year career. Both times the Cardinals eliminated his team, the 2004 Houston Astros and 2006 Mets, en route to a World Series appearance.

A career .282 hitter, Beltran has been even better on October's stage, batting .366 with 11 home runs and 19 RBI in only 82 at-bats.

Right knee surgery two years ago helped force Beltran to be exclusively a right fielder last year. But Beltran said he would play center field if asked.

"Right now I feel good," Beltran said. "Last year I played in the outfield and the games I missed, it wasn't because of the knee. It was because of an injury to my wrist."

New manager Mike Matheny, asked how he might deploy Beltran, either as a right fielder with Allen Craig recovering from knee surgery, or to challenge Jon Jay in center, said: "It's going to be a juggling act to see how (Beltran) progresses through the spring.

"Spring is really a good test. That tells you a lot about how their bodies are going to be able to hold up through the strain of a season. In a perfect world, I'd love to see him healthy. And when he's healthy, we have options."

NOTES, QUOTES

Retired manager Tony La Russa quickly accepted an invitation from commissioner Bud Selig to manage the National League in the All-Star Game on July 10 in Kansas City. La Russa said he was looking forward to reuniting with some of his former players and coaches from the 2011 world champions and hoped that Cardinal pitching coach Dave Duncan, who is on leave of absence to care for his ailing wife, would be able to serve as an All-Star coach. La Russa said he expects to be employed in some off-field capacity in baseball very soon.

CF Jon Jay, who was a teammate of Milwaukee's Ryan Braun at the University of Miami, is rooting for the reigning National League Most Valuable Player to have his 50-suspension overturned. Braun tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance and Jay said: "I'm a big Ryan Braun supporter. It's an unfortunate situation right now. I hope everything gets cleared up."

Among non-roster players invited to spring training is INF Eugenio Velez, who was with Los Angeles last season. Velez was hitless in 37 at-bats with the Dodgers last season but one had one run batted in and one stolen base. Velez hit .262 and .267 with San Francisco as a part-time starter in 2008-09.

RHPs Tyrell Jenkins and Jordan Swagerty, who were taken in the 2010 draft, will be invited to big-league spring training, joining 2009 first-round pick Shelby Miller, who is on a fast track toward perhaps joining the Cardinals late this season. Jenkins, 19, hasn't pitched above rookie ball but former Arizona State star Swagerty moved from Low-A to Class AA last season.

The Cardinals had some interest in free-agent RHP Roy Oswalt. A question is how he would fit with RHPs Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook and LHP Jaime Garcia.

BY THE NUMBERS: 45-36 - Cardinals' regular-season record both at home and on the road last season. In the postseason, they were 6-4 and 5-4, respectively.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I have two daughters who are single, and I wish he'd marry both of them."

- Former manager Tony La Russa's endorsement of new manager Mike Matheny, who already is married.

ROSTER REPORT

 

The Cardinals are coming off a World Series title, but general manager John Mozeliak realizes the big turnaround in the season came in late July and early August when the club changed 20 percent of its roster with five additions. Now that first baseman Albert Pujols is gone, the Cardinals are entering a new era, and they replaced some of Pujols' offense by signing OF Carlos Beltran.

 

ARRIVALS:

 

OF Carlos Beltran (free agent from Giants), LHP J.C. Romero (free agent from Rockies).

 

DEPARTURES:

 

1B Albert Pujols (free agent, signed with Angels), RHP Octavio Dotel (free agent, signed with Tigers), C Gerald Laird (free agent, signed with Tigers), INF Nick Punto (free agent, signed with Red Sox), INF Ryan Theriot (free agent, signed with Giants).

 

FREE AGENTS:

RHP Edwin Jackson, OF Corey Patterson, LHP Arthur Rhodes.

MEDICAL WATCH:

OF Allen Craig (knee surgery) is out until May.

RHP Adam Wainwright is in Jupiter, Fla. to begin throwing in earnest. He expects to be ready for spring training.

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