With the signing of free agent shortstop Cesar Izturis on Friday and their 40-man roster full to capacity, the St. Louis Cardinals needed to create immediate room. Their action was to designate outfielder John Rodriguez for assignment.
The move is an interim one, giving the Cardinals ten days to determine Rodriguez’ ultimate future. He must either be traded, released or if he clears waivers, assigned to the minor leagues.
Rodriguez, 29, was originally signed by his hometown New York Yankees as a free agent 11 years ago after attending a tryout at Yankee Stadium. Following eight years in the Yanks' system, he moved to Cleveland as minor league free agent after the 2004 season. The Cardinals picked him up in an in-season trade in June, 2005 as the Indians needed a minor league catcher. The Cards sent Javier Cardona to Cleveland and received Rodriguez in return.
Never lacking in confidence, Rodriguez was an immediate hit after joining the Cardinals less than six weeks after the trade. He earned the chance, batting .342 in Memphis. Rodriguez hit safely in his first six games with St. Louis, the longest streak for a Cardinals player beginning his career since earlier short-term phenom Bo Hart hit in his first seven games in 2003. The self-proclaimed “J-Rod” continued on to hit safely in his first ten starts on the way to a solid .295/.382/.436 (BA/OBP/SLG) debut.
Rodriguez broke camp with the Cardinals in 2006, eventually batting .301 overall, but he didn’t see regular playing time. The left-handed batter pinch-hit in 47 of his 102 games played and was returned to Memphis from early August until rosters expanded on September 1. Rodriguez did see post-season action for the second consecutive season, going a total of 0-for-9 with two walks, a sacrifice fly and a run scored over the two Octobers.
Plagued by shoulder and knee injuries in 2007, Rodriguez spent the entire season on Memphis’ roster, with at least three prolonged stints on the disabled list. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in late July and ended the season with a .263 average along with eight home runs and 27 RBIs in 55 games for the Redbirds. This week, he began playing winter ball with the Caribes de Anzoeatgui of the Venezuelan Winter League.
With nine other outfielders on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, including five other left-handed hitters, as well as prospects pushing their way up through the system, the handwriting was on the wall for Rodriguez. During 2006 and 2007, he was passed in the lefty outfield pecking order by Chris Duncan, Rick Ankiel and Skip Schumaker.
Jim Edmonds starts in center and Cody Haerther has career runway that Rodriguez is lacking. In addition, top prospect Colby Rasmus is expected to rise from Springfield to Memphis next spring and will need a roster spot when his MLB debut occurs, perhaps during the 2008 season.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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