Looking to build their left-handed relief corps at the high levels of the minor league system, the St. Louis Cardinals added another arm to the mix on Wednesday when they agreed to terms on a minor league contract with Ian Ostlund.
The 30-year-old had been with the Detroit Tigers organization since being drafted in the 34th round of the 2001 draft from Virginia Tech. In 2008 for Triple-A Toledo, he posted a 3-0 record with a 2.45 ERA (69.2 IP / 19 ER) while walking 17 and striking out 77. He allowed five runs in 25.1 innings (1.78 ERA) in the second half of the season.
In 299 career minor-league games (10 starts), the 6-foot-1, 200 pound Ostlund is 28-21 with 26 saves and a 3.15 ERA (449.0 IP / 157 ER). He will receive an invite to the Cardinals Major League spring training camp, but did not receive the same from the Tigers in 2008.
Among the Virginia native’s career highlights are tying for third in the Double-A Eastern League with 53 appearances in 2006, his first season at that level after toiling for five years in A-ball. He ranked second in the Midwest League in both lowest walks per nine innings and fewest baserunners allowed in 2005. Ostlund was a 2003 Midwest League Post-Season All-Star.
The bigger picture
The incumbent major league left-handers from 2008, Randy Flores and Ron Villone, were a weak link on the Cardinals. Villone is a free agent and will not be re-signed while the future of the arbitration-eligible Flores is cloudy. His brother Ron, also a lefty, toiled for Memphis last season, but was never seriously considered for a call-up to the majors. Ron Flores is now a free agent.
The other two Cardinals’ lefties in Triple-A last season, top prospect Jaime Garcia and free-agent Joe Rogers, were both injured. Rogers missed most of the 2008 campaign while Garcia will sit out most all of 2009 following Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.
Last month, the organization claimed lefty Charlie Manning off waivers from the Washington Nationals and added him to their 40-man roster. In addition to the returning Tyler Johnson, coming off shoulder surgery, the Cardinals are rumored to be interested in signing two experienced major league lefties. Possibilities include Joe Beimel, Alan Embree, Will Ohman, Brian Shouse and Arthur Rhodes.
The Cardinals sent three Double-A lefties, Justin Fiske, Tyler Norrick and Brad Furnish, to the Arizona Fall League this year in an obvious attempt to try to help address the left-handed relief problem. None of the three are ready for the next step, with Fiske having put up the best numbers, a 4.91 ERA in 11 innings. Furnish and Norrick’s ERAs are each over seven.
At this point, it looks like some combination of Manning, Randy Flores, Johnson and Ostlund could make up the left side of the 2009 Memphis bullpen.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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