The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have purchased the contract of Scott Linebrink, the final step required to make him a member of their 25-man roster for Opening Day. It was a move that was expected after the Cardinals’ had sent RHP Eduardo Sanchez to minor league camp where he is expected to start the season with the Memphis Redbirds. With the move, the Cardinals are now at 40 men on their 40 man roster, likely having alternative effects on other jobs.
Linebrink, 35, just misses out on being the oldest man on the Cardinals’ Opening Day roster this year. LHP J.C. Romero is two months older to the day and Lance Berkman takes the honor at six months older than Linebrink. Berkman turned 36 on February 10th, interestingly enough, the day that Linebrink was signed by the Cardinals’ to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training.
In 2011, Linebrink was 4-4 with a 3.64 ERA in 54 1/3 innings with the Atlanta Braves. He expected to get more phone calls from teams than he did get, but ultimately chose the Cardinals as his best option. The question in many teams’ minds, I think, was the 6.17 ERA he posted after returning from a DL stint last August. However, he did have a 2.95 ERA when he went on the DL in July.
Linebrink has gotten 9 2/3 innings of work so far in spring training and has only had 1 run allowed off of him, despite opponents hitting .282.
It will certainly be interesting to watch. I don’t have much confidence in Linebrink, but I think that you do need to hold onto as many options as possible for as long as possible. If the Cardinals learned anything last year it was that having too many options in your bullpen is a good thing, because you never know when one or two will become inexplicably ineffective.
The move solidifies the pitching staff for Opening Day.
It also likely answers the question of the bench for Opening Day too. If you assume that Daniel Descalso already has his spot sewn up, that Erik Komatsu has impressed enough to be kept in St. Louis as a Rule 5 draft pick, and that we will only carry one backup catcher on the roster (Bryan Anderson or Tony Cruz) then the bench is almost solved. Then you can put pieces together.
Matt Carpenter is expected to be on the roster after another strong spring. He also brought versatility with him as he has now played both corner infield and outfield positions, something that will be important if Descalso is taking an increased role off the bench. That leaves one more spot.
Allen Craig was supposed to get it, but he is experiencing some swelling in his knee after playing in minor league games.His progress has been slowed down and the only two guys remaining in camp are Shane Robinson and Eugenio Velez. With the Cardinals’ 40 man roster already full, the Cardinals will most likely take Robinson and that’s even the right option given their performances this spring. Robinson gives the team a right handed bat off the bench, which they wouldn’t really have otherwise with Descalso, Komatsu, and Carpenter all lefties.
Edit: Just a thought on the final point. If the team chose to put Chris Carpenter or Schumaker on the 60-day Disabled List there would be room to put Velez on the roster if they were so inclined. However, I think they still hold out hope that both will be back in less than 60 days, however much of a dream that might be.