Two hard-throwing pitchers who could find themselves as part of the Cardinals’ bullpen next season were among four players added to the team’s 40-man roster on Tuesday.
Left-hander Genesis Cabrera and right-hander Ryan Helsley were joined by outfielder Lane Thomas and infielder Ramon Urias, keeping them from being exposed to next month’s Rule 5 draft.
The Cardinals had only two spots open on their 40-man roster but created two additional openings on Tuesday by designating right-handed pitchers Conner Greene and Derian Gonzalez for assignment.
The 22-year-old Cabrera was one of two players the Cardinals obtained from Tampa Bay last summer in the trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Rays. He has been a starter but is spending this winter pitching out of the bullpen in the Dominican Republic, appearing in 12 games for Licey, where he has allowed only five hits and two walks while striking out 12 in nine innings.
Helsley, 24, was limited to just 70 innings between Double A Springfield and Triple A Memphis last year because of a strained forearm tendon, but has recovered from that injury and is expected to be 100 percent by the start of spring training. Both Cabrera and Helsley throw in the upper 90s and can touch 100 miles per hour with their fastball.
Thomas, 23, led the Cardinals’ minor-league organization in home runs (27) and RBIs (88) last season, spending most of the year at Springfield before finishing the season at Memphis. He was acquired in a 2017 trade from Toronto.
While those three players seemed locks to be added to the roster, the fourth spot was not so certain with the Cardinals ultimately deciding to protect Urias over fellow infielder Max Schrock, right-handed pitcher Junior Fernandez and catcher Dennis Ortega, all of whom will now be eligible to be selected by another team in the Rule 5 draft.
Urias, 24, was signed out of the Mexican League and split this season between Springfield and Memphis. He played all of the infield positions and hit a combined .300 with 13 homers and 44 RBIs in 90 games.
To create the two extra openings, the Cardinals DFA’d Greene and Gonzalez. Greene was acquired in the Randal Grichuk trade last winter from Toronto and spent most of 2018 in Springfield. He was one of the organization’s players in the Arizona Fall League but struggled, posting an 11.17 ERA.
Gonzalez was injured for much of 2018, logging only 33 innings pitched, mostly at Springfield.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains