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Gotay and the goats

A look at St. Louis Cardinals second base non-roster invitees over the last five seasons.

Ruben Gotay (AP/Gregory Bull)I have been thinking about the made-for-pre-spring camp excitement surrounding the assignment of uniform number 3 to St. Louis Cardinals non-roster invitee Ruben Gotay. There are those convinced the number means the infielder is considered a front-runner to make the opening day roster.

We don’t need to look back very far to find history littered with bodies with pasts that look a lot like Gotay’s – former major leaguer with ample minor league time, especially most recently.

This doesn’t mean I am pounding on Ruben, a Caribbean Series teammate of Yadier Molina with Team Puerto Rico in 2007, the latter who maybe not so coincidentally happens to wear number 4. I am just pointing out a well-established pattern. Recent results indicate former MLB second-base retreads auditioned in Cardinals spring camp just haven’t cut it no matter what number was on their back.

Following are the players tried in similar circumstances over the last five springs. Only one of them ever made it far enough to claim a regular season major league roster spot with the Cardinals at any time, let alone opening day.

That lone survivor was Joe Thurston last year and the only reason he made it was due to opportunity elsewhere in the infield – all the third basemen who managed to eliminate themselves from contention. Once there, Thurston remained, but didn’t produce consistently and wasn’t asked back for 2010.

Of the others, one was cut by the conclusion of camp, while the remaining three toiled in Memphis for at least part of the subsequent season, a most possible 2010 destination for Gotay. Even with him included, the youngest at 27, the group averages the ripe old age of 31.

One common thread is terrible spring training results at the plate, a collective .207 batting average. They weren’t so hot defensively, either. They averaged two errors each, despite the briefest of cameos by Dave Berg in 2006 and Wilton Guerrero the previous March.

Spring Player Spring # Roster Age Errors BA ABs Disposition
2010 Ruben Gotay 3 NRI 27
2009 Joe Thurston 22 NRI 29 1 0.246 69 St. Louis
2008 D’Angelo Jimenez 28 NRI 30 3 0.237 38 Memphis
2007 Jolbert Cabrera 19 NRI 34 4 0.151 53 Memphis
2006 Dave Berg 19 NRI 35 1 0.000 1 Released
2005 Wilton Guerrero 19 NRI 30 0 0.125 8 Memphis
Average 31 2 0.207 34

Junior Spivey (AP/Todd Anderson)In terms of uniform numbers, while none had a number above 28, neither were any of the failed combatants issued 3 like Gotay. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a recent number 3 working at second base in spring camp, however.

The group of NRIs does not include a pair of failed candidates in 2006. Believe it or not, coming into camp that spring, both Junior Spivey (pictured), wearing number 3, and Deivi Cruz, sporting number 35, were on the 40-man roster. That that didn’t last long and like the vast majority of the NRIs noted above, neither Spivey nor Cruz appeared in a regular-season game for St. Louis. Here is how they did in 2006 camp.

Spring Player Spring # Roster Age Errors BA ABs Disposition
2006 Junior Spivey 3 40-man 31 5 0.147 68 Memphis
Deivi Cruz 35 40-man 33 0 0.146 41 Released
Average 32 3 0.147 55

Of course as was evident in the Thurston case last spring, opportunity can pop up even when it is not expected. Someone else’s misfortune can open a door that previously looked to be closed.

Still, the future was far from bright for these infielders, even after leaving the Cardinals organization behind. Including Spivey and Cruz, of the earlier six, only two ever appeared in the major leagues again for any club following their brief stop in Cardinals camp. They are Jimenez (Washington, 2007) and Cabrera (Cincinnati, 2008).

Thurston is in the Braves camp this spring at least, though on a minor league deal of course, and Gotay still has his Cardinals bid in front of him. I don’t like the chances of either, though…

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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