Rasmus, Mather among six cut by Cards
Top prospect off to Minor League camp, outfielder to Memphis
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Cardinals made their most significant cuts of the spring to date on Monday, sending out six players -- including at least three who made strong pushes for spots on the Major League roster.
Top prospect Colby Rasmus, outfielder Joe Mather and pitchers Jason Motte and Mike Parisi all worked their way into discussions about the makeup of St. Louis' Opening Day roster, but all have been sent down the hall to Minor League camp. Rasmus, catcher Mark Johnson and pitcher Clayton Mortensen were reassigned to the Minors, while Mather, Motte and Parisi were optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
"It's all about making sure we get the adequate at-bats for everybody involved," general manager John Mozeliak said. "All these guys had a real solid camp. So not only did they open up a lot of eyes for our Major League staff, but I think they reinforced how a lot of us felt about them when we added them to the roster and brought them to camp. I think these guys have a lot to be proud of."
Rasmus in particular enjoyed an outstanding spring, batting .273 with a .467 on-base percentage and a .515 slugging percentage while playing quality defense in the outfield. He has long been expected to make his Major League debut before the 2008 season ends, but he will begin the season at Memphis.
"I thought I did good," he said. "I had a good time. I can't ask for much more. I got opportunities and I felt like I did pretty good. I got better and I had a lot of fun. That's all you can ask for."
Mather, meanwhile, may have improved his stock more than anyone in camp. Coming off a big year split between Double-A Springfield and Memphis, he put up a .289/.386/.526 line while showing solid defense and running the bases well.
"I felt like I did what I could," he said. "I feel like I came in and did what I had to do just to put myself in the picture. I didn't have any expectations of making this team out of spring."
Both moves clarify an increasingly obvious picture on the offensive side of the roster. With 13 available spots for hitters, the Cardinals have only 15 candidates remaining in camp.
Juan Gonzalez's abdominal injury has all but eliminated him from serious competition. D'Angelo Jimenez, meanwhile, has done little offensively or defensively to earn his way from non-roster invitee to a position on the roster.
On the pitching side, the moves shed a little light as well, though more decisions remain than on offense. The Cardinals have 16 healthy pitchers in camp for 12 spots. Hugo Castellanos is not expected to make the team, but that still leaves four pitchers contending for what is evidently one right-handed bullpen job.
Kelvin Jimenez is the favorite for that role, but Kyle McClellan, Cliff Politte and Chris Perez all must be considered contenders for as long as they are in camp. To some extent, the Cardinals showed the regard they have for both McClellan and Perez by keeping those two when they sent out Motte and Parisi.
Motte threw extremely well throughout camp, but is still considered somewhat raw. He has been pitching for fewer than two full seasons after being drafted as a catcher. Parisi drew raves from pitching coach Dave Duncan, but the organization does not view him as a candidate for the bullpen, so he will go to the Minors and continue work as a starter.
"He's going to pitch in the big leagues," Duncan said of Parisi. "I don't know when it's going to be, but he's got big league stuff. He's got a big league arm. Big league pitches."
Johnson was brought in to be the third catcher, and was never considered to be in serious competition for a Major League job coming out of camp. Mortensen, drafted in 2007, is simply too far away from being fully developed to compete for a job at this time. He will likely begin the season at either Class A Palm Beach or at Springfield.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.