After evaluating him for the past several weeks at their minor-league facility in Florida, the St. Louis Cardinals have signed 37-year-old lefthanded relief pitcher Pedro Feliciano to a minor-league deal. He will join the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds on Tuesday.
At one point, the undersized, soft-tossing Feliciano was one of the more highly-regarded lefties in the majors, and he led the major leagues in appearances for three straight years from 2008-10 while with the New York Mets. Largely because of this extensive use, which included 92 appearances in the 2010 season, his arm broke down, and his career came to a halt. He signed a two-year, $8-million dollar deal with the New York Yankees, but because of arm trouble that required surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, he missed both 2011 and 2012 and never took the mound for the Bronx Bombers.
In 2013, he returned to the Mets organization, and he spent most of the year gradually getting into pitching shape. He started with the Class A St. Lucie Mets, and he continued to ascend through the system until returning to the majors in mid-August. While his numbers didn’t turn out too well on paper—he had an ERA of 3.97 and a WHIP of 1.500—he did his job for the most part, only giving up runs in four of his 25 appearances.
It’s highly debatable as to whether Feliciano has much left, but with the Cardinals currently being without lefthanders Kevin Siegrist and Tyler Lyons, both of whom are now on the disabled list, it can’t hurt to give him a look. The key to the process will be making sure that Feliciano really deserves to be in the majors before bringing him up. Lefty Sam Freeman, who got the call to replace Siegrist, has put up some good numbers when he’s been given chances in the past, and he deserves the opportunity to prove himself as a reliable option. Often times when big-league teams make midseason moves like this, they move too quickly to bring up the veteran with the bigger name and kick the younger one to the curb, and it doesn’t end up working. One recent Cardinals example that comes to mind is in 2012, when the team signed veteran lefty Brian Fuentes, brought him up quickly, and sent down now-closer Trevor Rosenthal. After giving up five runs in six appearances, Fuentes ended up leaving the team, while Rosenthal went on to be part of the Cards’ postseason bullpen.
If the Cardinals have enough will power to give Freeman a chance and legitimately test Feliciano’s ability at Triple-A, it’s a no-risk move. With that said, the Cardinals have shown little ability to do those kinds of things so far in 2013, seeing as they previously plugged in veteran Mark Ellis at the first sign of struggle from rookie second baseman Kolten Wong and have continued to use veteran backup outfielder Shane Robinson in lieu of players with more upside. It should be interesting to see how Feliciano’s time with the Cardinals goes.