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Off Cards' 40-man roster, Butler heads to Japan

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CINCINNATI -- Joey Butler came off the Cardinals' 25-man roster on Wednesday, but instead of returning to Triple-A Memphis, he is headed for Japan.

The Cardinals announced on Friday that, after request outing release waivers on Butler, they sold his contract to the Orix club of the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League. The move opened up a spot on the Cardinals' 40-man roster and also netted the organization an undisclosed amount of cash.

General manager John Mozeliak said that Orix recently contacted the Cardinals expressing interest in acquiring a hitter from Triple-A. The Cardinals decided that they could part with Butler, who was going to be a fourth outfielder if he returned to Memphis.

"I really was impressed with what he did for us," Mozeliak said of Butler, who hit .360 with four homers and 20 RBIs in 31 Triple-A games. "I think he's a really talented guy. But between what you had going on in the big leagues and what you have going on in Memphis, his playing time is going to dwindle both places. For him to be able to go out and make those kinds of dollars in Japan is a great opportunity for him."

Butler went 0-for-5 during his recent stint with the Cardinals. The 28-year-old was claimed on waivers by the Cardinals during the offseason.

With Butler now out of the Triple-A outfield mix, it could open up a spot for another outfielder on that roster. Double-A Springfield outfielder James Ramsey would seem a candidate for a callup after a strong start to his season. Through 40 games, Ramsey is batting .305/.393/.583 with 34 runs scored, 11 homers and 28 RBIs. He has missed the past few games due to shoulder discomfort, but Mozeliak said the injury is not serious.

So could a promotion be on the horizon?

"At some point, it may," Mozeliak said. "It's crowded to begin with. Giving [Butler] this opportunity is good for him, and now we'll kind of work through our own number issues as we continue to go on."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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