Cardinals minor matters – February 5

The Hunter is being hunted

Memphis outfielder Amaury Cazana Marti, labeled “The Hunter” during his successful summer campaign in Mexico, is competing against the country in the Caribbean Series. The 34- (or 30) year-old played winter ball for Licey in the Dominican Republic and his club is representing the nation in the Series.

Through his first four games, Marti has struggled badly, looking very anxious at the plate, often overswinging. After starting the series batting #5, he has been dropped down to the #7 spot and has just one single, one walk and six strikeouts in 16 plate appearances. His 1-for-15 mark translates to an .067 average. Defensively, the Cuban émigré has seen time at both corners.

The regular winter season was a different story. Against Dominican League pitching, the right-handed hitter posted a .314/.390/.535 line for Licey. He hit seven home runs and drove in 34 over 172 at-bats. However, Marti fanned 42 times.

While the 2006 draftee remains under Cardinals organizational control for 2009, he was not invited to major league spring camp as he was in 2008. Unless he is added to the 40-man roster by next winter, Marti will be eligible for the December 2009 Rule 5 Draft.

( subscribers, be sure to check the site on Friday for my view of some potential starting pitching targets coming out of the Caribbean Series. “Playing a Hunch: Edgar Gonzalez to St. Louis?“)

How Larry Bigbie Became the Most Important Man in Baseball

A very, very interesting read about how a reserve Cardinals outfielder inadvertently opened up the government’s steroid investigation.

Skip at second a serious matter’s Matthew Leach is turning up the heat on the Skip Schumaker to second base story. He does not mention that this move does not address the left-handed splits problem, however. Neither Adam Kennedy (bad – .596 OPS last year) nor Schumaker (really terrible – .423 OPS in 2008) can hit lefties. So a platoon makes no sense.

They would never say it this way, instead pointing to 2010 potential, but the immediate benefit is all about making roster room for Colby Rasmus, while quietly exiting Skip from the starting outfield picture. I think it is incredibly optimistic to think Schumaker could become a major league starting-quality second sacker, but maybe a credible reserve level of play can be achieved.

If the experiment works, the five bench guys would seem to line up as Jason LaRue, Chris Duncan, Skip, Joe Mather and Brendan Ryan, with Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Rasmus starting in the outfield.

That seems to be the plan as I interpret it.

Lefty to the left coast

The Seattle Mariners announced on Thursday that they have signed left-handed reliever Tyler Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training camp.

The 27-year-old had been non-tendered by the Cardinals after missing all of 2008 and part of 2007 due to shoulder problems. Overall, Johnson pitched in 116 games for the Cardinals with a 3-5 record with a 4.32 ERA. He allowed 67 hits, struck out 65 and walked 42 in 77 career innings.

Johnson’s primary claim to fame was playing a major supporting role in the 2006 post-season. He fanned a dozen in just 7 1/3 playoff innings on just one earned run for a 1.23 ERA with the eventual world champs.