ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals closed a deal to add to their bullpen depth on Friday, adding free-agent right-hander Russ Springer. The 38-year-old signed a one-year deal worth a reported $1.75 million.
Springer is a familiar face to Cardinals fans for a couple of reasons. He briefly pitched for St. Louis in 2003, making the team as a non-roster invitee before missing much of the year with an elbow injury. More recently, he spent the past three seasons pitching for the rival Houston Astros.
The Louisiana native enjoyed a strong 2006 season in Houston, posting a 3.47 ERA in 59 2/3 innings. He struck out 46 against just 14 walks in 72 appearances. A year earlier, Springer put up a 4.73 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 21 walks in 59 innings. He has been vulnerable to the long ball, allowing 10 homers in 2006 and nine in '05.
"Russ is someone we are very familiar with and have liked for some time," general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement issued by the team. "He allows us to be more versatile out of the bullpen and adds another veteran presence to the relief corps."
Springer's addition provides another arm with late-inning experience to a bullpen that is deep, but somewhat in flux. Jason Isringhausen's availability for the start of the season is undetermined following hip surgery. One out of the group, which includes Adam Wainwright, Brad Thompson and Braden Looper, may be moved to the rotation.
The Cardinals continue to search for one or two starting pitchers after falling short in their pursuit of Jason Schmidt, who signed with the Dodgers. If they add only one starter, either Wainwright, Thompson or Looper would be shifted to the rotation. In that case, Springer would cover for the conversion.
But even if no one is moved, the extra depth should be beneficial. Isringhausen is believed to be progressing well, but there's no way to know how he will fare in game action until he actually starts pitching.
In a Major League career that dates back to 1992, Springer is 25-39 with eight saves in 518 appearances. He has a 4.94 career ERA over 681 1/3 innings.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.