ST. LOUIS • The Cardinals added hard-throwing reliever Jorge Rondon to the 40-man roster this week to keep the Class AAA righty from becoming a free agent on Friday.
The move is the first of several the Cardinals will have to make to the 40-man roster before December's Rule 5 draft.
On Monday, Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman became free agents, dropping off the 40-man roster. Kyle McClellan went on the 40-man roster, coming from the 60-day disabled list. If the Cardinals plan to retain his rights they must keep him on the 40-man roster. McClellan missed most of the 2012 season with elbow and shoulder issues.
The addition of Rondon and return of McClellan leaves the Cardinals with a full 40-man roster.
Rondon, 24, went 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA and five saves during the 2012 season, which he split between 33 games at Class AA and 13 in Triple-A Memphis. Rondon touched 100 mph with his fastball and averaged more than 95 mph regularly. He struck out 50 in 49 innings and walked 24, while serving mostly as a setup reliever.
The Venezuelan righty was eligible to become a minor-league free agent on Friday if the Cardinals didn't move to protect him.
The Cardinals will have to clear spots on the 40-man in the near future in order to (a) sign free agents and (b) protect some of the other prospects who would be Rule 5 eligible. That list includes righty Eric Fornatero, a Class AA reliever, and lefty Kevin Siegrist, who is pitching in the Arizona Fall League and could morph into a reliever.
The deadline to protect Rule 5-eligible players is Nov. 20.
The Cardinals would have time to modify and rearrange the 40-man roster if they added a free agent. Free agents like Lohse are currently able to negotiate with their most recent team. Free agents can begin negotiating with other teams on Saturday when the market officially opens.