Cards acquire versatile righty Pineiro

Cards acquire righty Pineiro

PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals fired the first volley of baseball's non-waiver trade deadline day, then sat tight for the remainder of the afternoon.

The result was the addition of another pitcher who has a big arm without the corresponding results -- right-hander Joel Pineiro, who was traded by the Red Sox. Boston will send cash considerations to St. Louis to help offset Pineiro's contract, while the Red Sox will receive a Minor League player to be named later.

General manager Walt Jocketty thought he had an excellent chance at adding a bigger name, however. The Cardinals made a serious bid for right-hander Matt Morris before the Giants dealt Morris to the Pirates for Rajai Davis and a player to be named later.

"I think we felt very confident that we might be able to get a deal done," Jocketty said.

That deal would have called for San Francisco to pick up some portion of the more than $15 million still owed to Morris on his current contract, which runs through 2008. Instead, the Giants elected to ship Morris to Pittsburgh, which is picking up the entire remaining cost of Morris' deal.

Jocketty indicated that the Cardinals and Giants were on the same page -- it was not a case where San Francisco insisted that St. Louis take on a financial commitment that the Cards were unwilling to make.

"From our standpoint," he said, "money was never an issue."

Still, at the last minute, Morris became a Pirate in a deal that perplexed the Cardinals, Morris and plenty of observers around baseball.

Meanwhile, the Cards held onto potentially tradeable assets, such as reliever Troy Percival, starters Kip Wells and Anthony Reyes, shortstop David Eckstein and outfielder Juan Encarnacion. They moved within six games of first place in the National League Central over the weekend, eliminating any possibility of a seller's mentality at the deadline.

If he's ready, Pineiro will slot into the St. Louis starting rotation immediately. He is penciled in to take the ball on Saturday in Washington. Reyes will pitch Thursday in Pittsburgh and Wells will face the Nationals at RFK Stadium on Friday.

The shuffling means that Mike Maroth and Brad Thompson will head to the bullpen, though one or the other could start Saturday if, for whatever reason, Pineiro is not ready to go.

"The reports were that he was throwing the ball well," said manager Tony La Russa. "We have guys on this club that know and like him and endorsed him. I'm interested to take a look at him.

"We've heard he's got a lot of life in his arm. When I hear the other things about him -- competitor, teammate -- I'm intrigued by him."

Pineiro, 28, was on the Cardinals' radar over the winter, but he signed with the Red Sox with an eye on Boston's then-vacant closer job. Instead, he struggled in a difficult season in the American League East, posting a 5.03 ERA in 31 appearances (34 innings). Pineiro was designated on July 23, giving the Red Sox 10 days to trade him, outright him to the Minors or release him.

The right-hander has made two starts for Boston's Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate since he was sent down on Wednesday. The Cardinals view him more as a starting candidate than as a reliever, giving them seven potential choices for five starting spots. Only Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper appear truly safe, with three more positions to be apportioned among Pineiro, Wells, Reyes, Thompson and Maroth.

One asset Pineiro brings to St. Louis is versatility. Though he pitched in relief for the Red Sox this year, he has 148 career starts, all with the Seattle Mariners. He could allow the Cardinals to make a complementary move, dealing either a reliever or a starter -- once they pass through waivers -- or he could simply add depth to the Cards' pitching staff.

"We've been trying to build our rotation," Jocketty said. "Our pitching in general, but our rotation in particular. And we did this, also knowing that if we were able to acquire another starter, Joel would have the versatility to go both ways."

Pineiro is 59-56 in his Major League career, which spans parts or all of eight seasons. He carries a career ERA of 4.50.

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