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Notes: Rincon cut as roster finalized

Notes: Rincon cut as roster finalized

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Cardinals finalized their 25-man roster Friday, releasing left-handed reliever Ricardo Rincon before the club headed north for two exhibition games in Memphis.

Rincon, signed to a two-year, $2.9 million deal before the 2006 season, threw a total of 3 1/3 innings for St. Louis. He was injured early in '06 after pitching in the World Baseball Classic. Rincon was attempting to come back from shoulder and elbow surgery and had pitched well in the spring, but the club chose to go with only two lefty relievers -- Tyler Johnson and Randy Flores.

With those two players set, the odds were long against Rincon. After trying to move him, the Cards finally gave up and simply let him go.

"Obviously, we tried multiple things with him," said assistant general manager John Mozeliak. "We tried to move him, to find a fit for him. He pitched well, but ultimately it came down to we thought we were a better club with the players we kept. So not being able to move him in a trade, this was the only alternative."

St. Louis will open the regular season against the New York Mets on Sunday night with 13 position players and 12 pitchers. John Rodriguez was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday, securing the final bench spot for outfielder Skip Schumaker.

"[Rodriguez] had a good spring," said manager Tony La Russa. "He worked hard; he's moving terrific. That's a tough call."

Also sent out Wednesday were right-hander Kelvin Jimenez and utility player Jolbert Cabrera, who were re-assigned to Minor League camp, and righty Dennis Dove, who was optioned to Memphis.

Three Cardinals will open the season on the 15-day disabled list: outfielder Juan Encarnacion (left wrist injury), lefty Mark Mulder (left shoulder) and right-hander Josh Kinney (right elbow).

The complete roster is as follows:

Catchers: Gary Bennett, Yadier Molina

Infielders: David Eckstein, Adam Kennedy, Aaron Miles, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, Scott Spiezio

Outfielders: Chris Duncan, Jim Edmonds, Skip Schumaker, So Taguchi, Preston Wilson

Pitchers: Chris Carpenter, Randy Flores, Ryan Franklin, Josh Hancock, Jason Isringhausen, Tyler Johnson, Braden Looper, Anthony Reyes, Russ Springer, Brad Thompson, Adam Wainwright, Kip Wells

DH or no DH: This much is certain regarding Saturday's Civil Rights Game presented by AutoZone: Wainwright will bat ninth for the Cardinals. It remains to be determined whether the Indians will use the designated hitter in the game, but St. Louis will not.

The Cardinals are of the opinion that the DH should not be used by either team, because St. Louis is the home team. Typically, in NL-hosted Interleague games, pitchers bat. However, the Indians have requested that the DH be used.

"Look in the newspaper this morning, and there wasn't one game played in a National League park where the DH was used," La Russa said.

Ankiel in center: Rick Ankiel started as the center fielder for Memphis on Friday, for the first of what is expected to be many times for the converted pitcher. Ankiel will be the primary center fielder in a four-man outfield shuffle that also includes Nick Stavinoha, Rodriguez and Ryan Ludwick.

"It's a good spot for him," La Russa said. "I think he'll have fun playing it. He's got the athletic ability to do it. It helps set up their team. It's a good move by Chris [Maloney, Memphis' manager]."

Springer on short leash: The Cardinals will pick their spots carefully with Springer in the early going. Springer missed the early part of the spring with a strained oblique muscle.

"I think that we'll pay attention to Springer for a little while, try to put him in the right situations and make sure that he's where he should be," pitching coach Dave Duncan said.

He said that the team's use of Looper in the early part of 2006 makes for a fair parallel to the way Springer will be treated in the opening weeks of '07.

Reyes solid: Reyes allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings, striking out five in the exhibition win over Memphis. He allowed five hits and didn't walk a batter in his final game before the regular season begins.

"They have a tough lineup to go after," La Russa said. "You have to work to get your outs, and he did a good job."

Reyes said he is unsure what sort of work he will get in the coming days. He receives eight days of rest before his 2007 regular-season debut, on Sunday, April 8 at Houston.

Bits and pieces: Chris Duncan made an impressive running catch in the gap in left-center in the sixth, depriving Ryan Ludwick of extra bases. ... Gary Bennett's grand slam delivered the winning runs for the Cards in their 6-2 victory over Memphis. ... Lydia Hart, the wife of former Memphis and St. Louis infielder Bo Hart, sang the national anthem before Friday's game, and her husband paid a visit to the Cards clubhouse afterward.

Opening ceremonies: The Cardinals announced their plans for Sunday's Opening Night festivities at Busch Stadium. Gates open for fans at 4 p.m. CT, with ceremonies starting at 6 p.m. sharp.

Events will begin with the parade of the Budweiser Clydesdales. Also included will be the traditional Ford motorcade around the warning track. Representatives from the 1967 and 1982 world championship teams will welcome the 2006 team to the club of Cardinals champs. The ceremonial first pitch will be a three-pronged affair, with the pitchers who recorded the final out of the last three titles pitching to their managers: Wainwright to La Russa, Bruce Sutter to Whitey Herzog and Bob Gibson to Red Schoendienst.

As usual, the club's Hall of Famers will be on hand. REO Speedwagon will sing the national anthem, and actor Billy Bob Thornton will co-emcee with Cards radio broadcaster John Rooney. Cardinals players and coaches will wear uniforms with gold stitching through the first series of the season.

Quotable: "A bunch of us made a trip over to the museum, and my impression is that it isn't as important for some of us that were older, because for a lot of us, that was our time.

"I can remember I made the A's club in 1968 and we opened in Baltimore, and it was canceled because of Reverend King's death. So I think it's really important for the younger guys, who are really oblivious to what history is all about. Somebody's got to require them to go to the museum." -- La Russa, after visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis

Weather report: Getting started on time may be a problem on Saturday. The forecast calls for thunderstorms Saturday afternoon, with an 80 percent chance of rain at first pitch, diminishing to 30 percent by later in the evening. The high should be in the upper 70s.

Coming up: The Cardinals' final exhibition game of 2007 comes Saturday at AutoZone Park. St. Louis will face the Indians in the inaugural Civil Rights Game presented by AutoZone. The game, which will be carried on ESPN and MLB.TV, starts at 4:30 p.m. CT and will be preceded on ESPN by a two-hour pregame special. Wainwright will start for St. Louis against Indians lefty Jeremy Sowers.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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