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12/06/07 12:23 AM ET

Cards continue search for starters

Club unlikely to make deal before end of Winter Meetings

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After spending two days evaluating trade possibilities, the Cardinals turned their focus to the free-agent market at baseball's annual Winter Meetings on Wednesday. General manager John Mozeliak met with numerous agents as he looks to bolster his team's starting rotation.

Mozeliak said on Wednesday evening that he does not expect to get any significant deals done before the Cardinals leave Nashville. However, he remains confident that he and the club will be able to achieve their offseason objectives in the coming weeks.

"There's a lot of talk going on, but I don't really think there's been as much activity as people were really expecting," Mozeliak said. "I think people are really trying to exhaust what might be out there in trades. I spoke to a handful of agents today, and they seemed to leave me with the impression that they don't anticipate anything until next week or even the following."

The Cardinals remain unlikely to pursue the pitchers considered the top options in a relatively weak class of free agents, Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse. Both Silva, with a career ERA just two percent better than league average, and Lohse, whose career ERA is actually worse than league average, are expected to command four- or five-year deals. Mozeliak does not believe the Cardinals would be wise to participate in those auctions.

Instead, they will look at more modest deals, not to mention much shorter ones, for free agents with less buzz. Nonetheless, Mozeliak continues to attest that the best remedies for the Cards' starting pitching will likely come through trade.

"I think we have enough out there where we feel that we'll address the need of innings," he said. "As far as trying to focus that more to a middle-of-rotation type person, I think that's almost going to have to come via trade more than free agency, unless you get a little lightning in a bottle."

The Cardinals have spoken with the agent for right-hander Bartolo Colon, the 2005 American League Cy Young winner who has had two straight subpar and injury-marred years. For the most part St. Louis is avoiding high-risk pitchers this winter, but Colon has drawn their interest.

"I will admit I have spoken with Colon's agent," Mozeliak said, "and we are currently doing the due diligence on his medical.

"I think it's still a question mark. Clearly he was a top performer at one time, which obviously is intriguing. But all I'd really like to say on that is that I have talked with his agent and we'll continue to look at it."

Other possibilities include Livan Hernandez, who Mozeliak said is "not yet" a fit, Kris Benson and Josh Fogg. Benson, recuperating from rotator cuff surgery, will work out for interested teams later in the month. The Cardinals will likely attend, but Mozeliak categorized the team's interest as fairly marginal.

Winter Meetings

Encarnacion update: Manager Tony La Russa said that Juan Encarnacion is progressing slowly in his rehabilitation from being hit in the face by a foul ball.

"Last I heard there were still some issues," La Russa said.

"He's struggling. We've got our fingers crossed for him."

Another Flo: The Cardinals are expected to announce the signing of reliever Ron Flores to a Minor League contract on Thursday after the Rule 5 Draft is completed. Flores is the brother of Cardinals reliever Randy Flores.

Back to Springfield: The Cardinals will wrap up their 2008 exhibition seasons with two games against Double-A Springfield at Hammons Field in Springfield, Mo., next March. St. Louis will face its Texas League affiliate on Friday, March 28, 2008 at 7:10 p.m. CT and on Saturday, March 29 at 1:10 p.m. CT. Single-game ticket information has not been made available. The Cardinals will start the 2008 regular season on March 31 against the Rockies at Busch Stadium.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.