Cardinals sign right-hander Ohka

Cardinals sign right-hander Ohka

ST. LOUIS -- With no illusions that they had acquired a savior, the Cardinals announced on Tuesday that they have signed right-hander Tomo Ohka to a Minor League contract.

Ohka will report to Triple-A Memphis and will start for the Redbirds on Wednesday against Round Rock. His stay in the Minors should be short. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Ohka must be recalled within two weeks, or else be let go.

"He's fitting in at Triple-A to see what he's got," said manager Tony La Russa. "He's got a track record of success, so he goes down there and starts a little bit and guys will evaluate where he is. I think it's a good acquisition, but it really depends on how he pitches."

It is perhaps telling that Ohka will start on Wednesday, which is the same day that Todd Wellemeyer makes his next start for St. Louis. Wellemeyer, a converted reliever, Kip Wells and Anthony Reyes would all be potential candidates to be bumped when and if the Cardinals add Ohka to their rotation.

St. Louis starters rank last in the National League with a 5.63 ERA, fully half a run worse than the 15th-place Washington Nationals. Ace Chris Carpenter, Braden Looper and Mark Mulder are all on the disabled list, while Wells and Reyes have combined for 19 losses on the year.

Through the 2005 season, Ohka was a consistently effective starter. In each of the four seasons from 2002-2005, he posted an ERA better than the league average, making 29 or more starts in three of those years. However, he came down with shoulder trouble in 2006 and has been less effective since.

In 10 starts with the Blue Jays, Ohka went 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA. He was designated for assignment, then given his outright release by Toronto. St. Louis signed him at a pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum salary.

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