Traveling man Cazaña returns to Mexico

Staring prior to and continuing ever since having been drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 18th round of the 2006 Draft, the ex-Cuban Amaury Antonio Cazaña (Marti) has never worn any particular uniform for very long.

Such is the case here in 2009, as the outfielder has again been dispatched to Mexico for the Mexican League season. Instead of returning to last year’s club or the one from the year prior, Cazaña is now donning the threads of a third league entry, the Guerreros de Oaxaca.

It is at least his 15th uniform change in the last five years alone, all since his escape from Cuba in April, 2005. Initially using his mother’s maiden name, Marti, the player is now going by Amaury Cazaña.

Coming into Saturday, Cazaña had already put in four games for Oaxaca, having gone 5-for-16 at the plate with a line of .313/.313/.688 or a cool OPS of 1.001. Of course, there was never a doubt that he can hit. In 266 career games in affiliated ball through 2008, his line is .323/.393/.524.

The doubts start with his age, which is 30 years old if you believe the player’s own words as he insisted to me two years ago and readily accepted by the Cardinals. On the other hand, multiple Cuban baseball websites listed Cazaña as having been born four years earlier. In an odd twist, also goes with the earlier birth date.

Other questions have to do with Cazaña’s future. After having received a non-roster invitation to St. Louis Cardinals spring training camp in 2008, he did not get such an offer in 2009. Cazaña did make one appearance when he was called over from the minor league fields for a bit of garbage-time action with the big club.

Another even more telling indication of his future is the fact that there was no place for Cazaña to play with Triple-A Memphis for the second consecutive season. Last year, he managed 28 games there before being shipped out at the conclusion of a stint on the disabled list. This time, he was gone before the Redbirds left Florida.

Sure, he could always be recalled from Mexico, but there are many ahead of him.

Consider these members of the Redbirds. Brian Barton, Nick Stavinoha and Joe Mather all have MLB experience and places on the 40-man roster, while Jon Jay had an impressive big-league camp and even Shane Robinson opened some eyes in limited action this spring.

Even if he can’t see the major leagues from his current perspective, at least Cazaña can brag about having compiled a most interesting and diverse travel itinerary in recent years. He had played on numerous national teams in Cuba since at least 1997 before escaping to Mexico in 2005.

He then moved to the USA, where he suited up for a handful of games with one independent team and was embroiled in a contract dispute with another before making a celebrated appearance at the Cardinals Minor League Spring Training camp in March, 2006, where the anonymous newcomer blasted several long home runs including one that traveled out of Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

The Cardinals thought as a Cuban, Cazaña was eligible to be signed on the spot, but quickly learned he had to go through the draft instead. This was due to the fact that he had established residency in Florida and therefore was no longer considered a foreigner.

Four years later, though he is a US resident living in Miami,
Cazaña remains an international traveling man – sort of a 21st Century baseball-playing barnstormer.

Here are some of the uniforms Cazaña has worn in the last five years alone – 15 changes by my count and I have likely missed a few along the way:

  1. Elmira Pioneers of the independent CanAm League: 2005
  2. Shreveport Sports of the independent Central League: 2005 (under contract)
  3. Palm Beach Cardinals of the A-Advanced Florida State League: 2006
  4. Springfield Cardinals of the Double-A Texas League: 2006
  5. Peoria Saguaros of the Arizona Fall League: 2006
  6. Petroleros de Minatitlan of the Triple-A Mexican League: 2007
  7. Back to Springfield: 2007
  8. Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League: 2007
  9. Indios del Boer of the Nicaraguan Winter League: 2007-2008
  10. St. Louis Cardinals: 2008 Spring Training
  11. Memphis Redbirds of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League: 2008
  12. Diablos Rojos del Mexico of the Mexican League: 2008
  13. Tigres de Licey of the Dominican Winter League: 2008-2009
  14. Memphis again: 2009 Spring Training
  15. Guerreros de Oaxaca of the Mexican League: 2009