JUPITER, Fla. • The Cardinals moved one step closer to finalizing their bench for opening day by walking away from the veteran they once thought could be a starter.

The Cardinals granted shortstop Ronny Cedeno his outright release Tuesday afternoon, less than two months after the team signed him to a one-year, $1.15 million contract.

Cedeno, a former everyday shortstop for Pittsburgh, was positioned to be Rafael Furcal’s backup and, when the switch-hitting starter had elbow surgery, his potential replacement. Rookie Pete Kozma instead won that job, and the Cardinals opted to give Cedeno a chance to sign elsewhere.

“It wasn’t fair to drag him on,” manager Mike Matheny said. This “gives him the opportunity to still catch on with somebody else when it became apparent which direction we were going to go. … We feel good with what we have in that department.”

Many factors and several standout performances this spring contributed to the Cardinals’ decision. Matt Carpenter’s proficiency at his new position, second base, meant that in addition to sharing time at that position Daniel Descalso could be counted on to back up shortstop.

Kozma has been steady in the field this spring while also batting .341 through his first 14 games. And rookie slugger Matt Adams has hit three home runs and slugged .565 during spring. Having Descalso as the backup shortstop as well as part-time starter at second base would allow the Cardinals to carry Adams and Ty Wigginton as the lefthanded and righthanded options off the bench, respectively.

For long-term protection at shortstop, prospect Greg Garcia and Ryan Jackson will play the position at Class AAA Memphis. Garcia remains in big-league camp, having made a favorable impression for his reliable defense.

The Cardinals worked with the 30-year-old Cedeno on an improved swing, and at times he felt it produced results. Cedeno hit .290 with a .371 on-base percentage but had as many strikeouts (nine) as hits (nine) in 31 at-bats. By rule, the Cardinals will pay him the pro-rated equivalent of 45 days of salary, or about $284,050.

“Everything changed,” Cedeno said. “I tried to be a more offensive guy. … It’s part of baseball. I think they’re going in a different direction, and that’s it.”


Derrick Goold covers the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for The Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @dgoold or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BirdLandPD

Derrick Goold is the lead Cardinals beat writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and current president of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.