ST. LOUIS – Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay tweeted shortly after the club signed veteran reliever Randy Choate Friday that having him as a teammate would save him five broken bats a year. Fellow left-handed hitter Dan Descalso agreed.
And they should. They are a combined 0-for-9 against Choate in their careers while the full St. Louis roster is just 4-for-25 against the left-handed specialist. Safe to say the Cardinals hitters are pumped to have him on their side now.
Choate finalized a three-year, $7.5 million deal with the Cardinals by passing a morning physical at Busch Stadium Friday, solving their need for a left-handed specialist while allowing him to finally play for one of his top choices.
“I’m very excited,” Choate said. “I’ve heard nothing but great things about the fans of St. Louis. You talk to anybody that plays baseball and they say it’s the best baseball city in all of baseball. Everybody has great things to say about St. Louis and their fans.
“I feel like I’m going to be a good fit for their pen. To join Marc (Rzepczynski) and be that second lefty in the pen and have the two of us, I think will be a good fit.”
Choate, 37, was arguably the top left-handed specialist available this winter. He held left-handed hitters to just a .158 batting average last season and had a 3.03 ERA in 38 2/3 innings with the Marlins and Dodgers.
In 12 big league seasons, Choate has held left-handed batters to just a .201 batting average and .284 slugging percentage.
As he’s done the previous times he’s been a free agent, the lefty gave his agent three teams he’d like to play for next season. This was one of the first times the interest was mutual.
The Cardinals had interest in Choate at last year’s trade deadline before the Marlins sent him and Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They had serious interest in him again this offseason. And last week in Nashville, the two sides found a match.
“Most times I’m not lucky enough to have one of my top three places actually be interested in me,” Choate said. “It was just a place I was very interested in with the history and the town and the fans. There were five or six teams that had some sort of interest, three with really strong interest at the end and obviously the Cardinals had the most.”
Choate decided on the Cardinals over the Dodgers and Reds. And while the three-year deal surprised some, a left-handed specialist may be the one position where age is not as much of a factor.
And Choate has proven to be durable, leading the league in appearances in two of the past three seasons. He topped the National League with 80 appearances last year and led the American League with 85 appearances while with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.
“I guess what they say is you are only as old as you feel,” Choate said. “And if you ask somebody like Edward Mujica, I’m 37 but I probably act more like I’m 25. I’m very high strung and have a lot of energy and love being out there and love competing.
“The fact that I only face one, two guys a night definitely gives me an advantage to stay fresh and go out there on a daily basis and get that tough lefty out and hopefully in a crucial spot.”
Mujica and Choate were teammates in the Miami bullpen in 2011 and the first part of 2012 before the two were traded away to the Cardinals and Dodgers. But now they are teammates again in St. Louis.
The only other Cardinals that Choate has played with in the past are Rafael Furcal and Jake Westbrook. Furcal and Choate played on the same Winter League team a few years ago while he and Westbrook played together in Triple-A with the Yankees in 2000.
Choate fills a big void in the Cardinals bullpen, both on the mound and in the clubhouse.
“Matheny has already called me and said he was going to lean on me for that leadership role in the bullpen and I hope I can provide that,” Choate said. “Hopefully I can fit in quickly and be the loose guy I am. I’m kind of high strung, I like to talk a lot, but I’m pretty harmless. I try to keep everybody loose and having fun while playing the game.
“This is pretty special. It’s nice to get a fresh start with a new city and a new team and just be able to make your name known around here and do whatever they would like me to do to win and hopefully I can do that and help this team win another World Series.”