It was widely reported last week that infielder Alex Cora had retired from baseball after playing parts of 14 seasons in the majors. Instead, the 36-year-old is the newest member of the St. Louis Cardinals organization, having agreed to terms on a minor league contract that includes a major league spring training camp invitation. The AP reports he will make $800,000 if added to the 40-man roster.
Cora, a native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, played winter ball and was the captain of his hometown club, Caguas Criollos of the Puerto Rico League. After the Criollos’ final game of the season, the club announced Cora was retiring. The next day, the player clarified the remark by saying he has ended winter ball play only and still was looking for a 2012 playing job in the US.
Cora has found employment with the Cardinals, his seventh major league organization. He becomes the fourth ex-Los Angeles Dodgers middle infielder to join St. Louis in the last year, following Rafael Furcal, since-departed Ryan Theriot and Eugenio Velez. In addition to shortstop and second base, Cora has played in the field at third base and even a bit of first base.
Cora was originally taken by the Dodgers in the third round of the 1996 draft and remained with them through 2004. He then moved to the Blue Jays, Indians, Red Sox, Mets, Rangers and Nationals. Cora played for Team Puerto Rico and its manager Jose Oquendo during the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Alex is the younger brother of Joey Cora, former MLB infielder and current bench coach of the Miami Marlins.
Cora is a steady and versatile glove man, but a significantly below-average hitter. The left-handed hitter has a .243 career average but batted just .224 for Washington last season after a .210 mark the year prior. His best chance of making the 2012 Cardinals would seem to depend on failure by or injuries to Furcal, Tyler Greene or Daniel Descalso.
Though Cora has not served significant time in the minor leagues since 2000, he might instead be deployed as a veteran reserve at Triple-A Memphis. The Cardinals have already signed another player who could be destined for a similar role in 2012 in Velez, a second baseman-outfielder.
Note: To view the entire St. Louis Cardinals organization by position and level, refer to the Roster Matrix at The Cardinal Nation Blog. There, you can see all players invited to major league spring training as well as early minor league camp. Cora becomes the club's 20th non-roster invitee (NRI).
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.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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