The Cardinals began a day of fall housekeeping Wednesday with a scrubdown of their 40-man roster that included the release of middle reliever Brad Thompson.
In order to create more space on the roster, the Cardinals moved infielder Joe Thurston and reliever Matt Scherer to the Class AAA Memphis roster, and they lost infielder Jarrett Hoffpauir to Toronto via waivers. Thompson, 27, would have had his second crack at arbitration this winter, and the Cardinals opted to set him loose as a free agent now rather than wait for the deadline to offer contracts to arbitration-eligible players.
The moves give the Cardinals 36 players on their 40-man roster, including players like Matt Holliday, John Smoltz, Rick Ankiel and others who are set to be free agents. The Cardinals must decide by Nov. 20 whether to add some of their more high-profile prospects like outfielder Daryl Jones, reliever Francisco Samuel, catcher Bryan Anderson, outfielder Jon Jay and outfielder Allen Craig to the 40-man roster or risk losing them in December’s Rule 5 draft.
Craig, who led Class AAA with 26 homers and 83 RBIs this season, was named the team’s minor-league player of the year this week.
The Cardinals also announced that all six of their minor-league affiliates will have new pitching coaches for 2010. Former major-league All-Star pitcher Dennis Martinez will move up to Class AA Springfield as its pitching coach. Former major-leaguer Derek Lilliquist will be the pitching coach at Memphis, swapping places with Blaise Isley, who will move into a pitching coordinator role based at the Jupiter, Fla., complex.
Bryan Eversgerd will be the pitching coach at high-A Palm Beach, and Tim Leveque will move to pitching coach at low-A Quad Cities.
Farm director Jeff Luhnow said the rotation of pitching coaches was inspired by wanting to get familiar people in fresh places. Martinez has been serving as a pitching coach near his home in Miami, but the organization “wanted to see if he was ready to step toward the top levels,” Luhnow said.
This past season, Cardinals pitching Dave Duncan voiced concerns about a disconnect between him, his staff and the development of pitchers in the minor leagues. He expressed those concerns in greater detail to general manager John Mozeliak, who said recently the organization would look at strengthening the influence of the major-league staff’s approach and philosophies with the minor-league instructors.
Luhnow rejected the idea that these moves were a part of that, though he did acknowledge that Lilliquist has a strong working relationship with Duncan.
“When we have somebody on the major-league staff who wants to be more involved with our development, we have to listen,” Luhnow said. “It’s important we do what we can to bridge any gap that may exist. If there is a notion that there was a disconnect in the alignment we had, we’re going to work to correct that this winter and throughout the next season.”
Mark DeJohn, this season’s manager at Class A Batavia, will become a senior roving instructor to work with players, coaches and managers to make sure there is a consistent approach throughout the system.