ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals made a pair of moves on Thursday, one long expected and one necessitated at the last minute.

As it had planned to do all week, the club reinstated catcher Gerald Laird from the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game. To make room, Mark Hamilton was optioned to Triple-A Memphis. Additionally, the Cards optioned pitcher Brandon Dickson to Memphis and purchased the contract of pitcher P.J. Walters. To make room for Walters on the 40-man roster, pitcher Bryan Augenstein was designated for assignment.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the sequence was Hamilton being sent out. Instead of keeping the left-swinging first baseman, the Cardinals kept Tony Cruz on the roster as a third catcher. Cruz can also play first base and third base, and already has done so while in the big leagues.

"[We've] got a variety of ways to use [Cruz]," manager Tony La Russa said. "Plus he's done well. He's done a good job since he was here."

Walters was needed because of Wednesday night's 13-inning game in which the Cardinals used six relievers to pitch 8 2/3 innings. He was slated to start for Memphis at Round Rock on Thursday, but instead was notified late Wednesday night to come to St. Louis.

Draft pick McElroy expects to sign soon

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals draftee C.J. McElroy made it clear Thursday that he fully intends to sign with the club, and that he expects a deal to be done relatively soon.

McElroy, an outfielder from the Houston area, was the Cards' third-round pick in last month's First-Year Player Draft. He's a two-sport star who has committed to play football at the University of Houston, but he's also the son of big leaguer Chuck McElroy. He visited Busch Stadium on Thursday, taking some cuts on the field and meeting players in the clubhouse, and said that his heart is in baseball.

"It's going to get done," he said. "Pretty soon. A couple weeks, it will get done."

McElroy said he expects to have something finalized in time to get out and play Minor League ball this year. Minor League seasons conclude at the end of August.

Baby birds

• Just like the parent club, Triple-A Memphis played 13 innings on Wednesday, though the Triple-A Redbirds beat Nashville, 6-5. Aaron Luna homered and drove in four runs.

• Double-A Springfield was off on Wednesday.

• Class A Palm Beach was rained out against Bradenton.

• Ryan Copeland pitched seven shutout innings but didn't get any help, as Class A Quad Cities lost to Burlington, 4-3.

Copeland is the player of the day despite the defeat. The left-hander allowed one hit and one walk, striking out five. Copeland, 23, was a 32nd-round Draft pick out of Illinois State in 2010. He's 0-1 on the year in 10 appearances (two starts) with a 3.94 ERA, 34 strikeouts and six walks in 32 innings.

• Michael Maness pitched seven strong innings to help short-season Batavia beat State College, 2-1. Maness allowed one unearned run on three hits, striking out five against two walks.

• Tyler Rahmatulla and Steven Ramos each had three hits, but rookie-level Johnson City lost to Bluefield, 6-4.

• Gerwuins Velazco and Victor Encarnacion homered, helping the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals beat the GCL Astros, 10-5.

Tidbits

• David Freese made his fourth start of the year in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, and La Russa indicated that Freese might see more time in that spot against left-handed pitching.

• Cardinals players were allowed a later-than-usual arrival and did not have batting practice on the field on Thursday, a day after the club played a 13-inning game that lasted more than four hours.

• Outfielder Daryl Jones was sent from Triple-A Memphis to Double-A Springfield on Thursday.