03/29/08 7:14 PM ET
Reyes, Washington make the cut
Reliever, infielder last to make it onto Cards 25-man roster
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
The Cardinals may not submit their roster to Major League Baseball until at least Sunday, but the decisions have been made on which 25 players will suit up at Busch Stadium on Monday. Washington will be on a big league roster for the first time as a utility infielder, while Reyes will get the last spot in the bullpen.
"Words can't really describe how I feel right now," said Washington, who has been playing pro ball since 1997. "I just can say that it's a moment I've been waiting for throughout my career, and today is a special day. I just want to cherish it and go there and do the best that I can."
D'Angelo Jimenez will be assigned to Memphis, while Ryan will be placed on the disabled list due to discomfort in the area of his rib cage -- officially an intercostal muscle strain. Kelvin Jimenez, who at one time looked like a front-runner for a bullpen job, will be optioned to Triple-A Memphis.
The club had tipped its hand regarding the infield spot on Friday, but Washington was not notified until Saturday morning.
"It hasn't sunk in," Washington said after Saturday's exhibition game, in which he hit a home run. "I'm just glad to be a part of this team. No. 1, I just want to thank God, and thank these guys for actually welcoming me into this team. ... I'm still breathless right now, taking it all in."
The Cardinals had steadfastly insisted that no decision had been made on the last pitching job until Saturday. Reyes has made only five relief appearances in his professional career, three of them as a rookie September callup in 2005. But he offers protection as a true long reliever, something otherwise missing in the St. Louis bullpen.
"He could go in there and give us four, five, six innings," manager Tony La Russa said. "Plus, it's a statement of the improvement he continues to make."
Reyes entered spring as a competitor for an open spot in the St. Louis starting rotation, and at least arguably pitched well enough to win one of the two jobs. However, he was passed over in favor of Brad Thompson, who also enjoyed an outstanding spring, and Todd Wellemeyer -- whose Grapefruit League numbers were inferior to Reyes'.
Still, while Reyes hoped to crack the rotation, he would rather relieve in St. Louis than start at Memphis.
"It's kind of nice, with all the hard work I put in this offseason, and what I went through last year, I was able to bounce back," he said. "I'm looking forward to this season. It's nice all the hard work is paying off. Every time I went out, things started to click and I started to feel more and more like my old self."
Kelvin Jimenez put up a respectable spring, posting a 3.86 ERA in 14 innings with seven strikeouts and four walks. He will provide depth at Memphis for another season, and would likely get a callup if and when the team needs short-term relief help.
Washington made an early appearance in camp as a non-roster invitee, but was reassigned to the Minor Leagues on March 5. Ryan, meanwhile, had been a sure thing for the sixth infield spot before he came down with the intercostal injury.
When Ryan first was sidelined, D'Angelo Jimenez became the favorite to take his spot on the roster until he returned. But the club was reluctant to commit to a full-year contract for Jimenez when he might only be on the roster for a few days.
Jimenez is out of options, so he could not be removed from the Major League roster without being waived. Additionally, once he is added to the roster, he will be guaranteed a Major League salary for the remainder of the year whether he was in St. Louis or Memphis. By contrast, Washington can be optioned to the Minors as soon as Ryan is ready to play again.
Regardless of the reasons, though, Washington is a remarkable story. A former third-round pick of the Pirates, Washington -- who will be 30 May -- has played 1,134 professional games and taken 3,980 Minor League at-bats but has never appeared in a big league game.
"They say good things come to people who wait," he said. "I've been waiting a long time."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.