Looking to add depth to the left-hand side of their bullpen, the St. Louis Cardinals signed free-agent relief pitcher Brian Fuentes to a minor-league deal on Saturday.
Fuentes, 36, reported to the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate Sunday to start a predetermined seven-game program.
Fuentes has not pitched since June 30 and it is believed he was having some mechnical issues when he was released by the Oakland Athletics earlier this month.
"He wants to get himself right," Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said. "I think he's approaching it with the right attitude. Even if he can get himself partially back to where he can help add depth -- not only from the left side, but also to be able to get right-handers out -- that would be important."
The Cardinals will be able to keep Fuentes in the minor leagues through the end of the month. The left-hander has a July 31 out clause in his contract that would allow him to request his release, if he has not been called up to the majors by that date.
"We're going to have to see how he comes along," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I remember who he used to be, and that may have been the only lefty I never liked to face. I know his stuff is a little different now, but I also know he has something to bring to the table."
The Cardinals have been seeking bullpen help from the left side since the release of veteran J.C. Romero on June 14.
The team had hoped Romero would combine with Marc Rzepczynski to give them a pair of solid left-handers in the bullpen.
But Romero struggled, putting together an ERA of 10.13 in 11 games before being cut loose.
The team has gotten some good work from rookie left-hander Barrett Browning, who was recalled from Triple-A Memphis not long after Romero's release and made his major league debut on June 30.
Coming into Sunday night's game at Cincinnati, Browning has appeared in six games and posted an ERA of 1.59 in 5 2/3 innings of work.
But the Cardinals may be looking to add a veteran of Fuentes' ilk to bolster a bullpen which has struggled much of the season.
Fuentes 2012 season got off to a good start for Oakland, allowing just six earned runs in his first 19 innings, with three of those runs coming in one appearance.
But the left-hander was scored upon in six of his final seven games with the Athletics, surrendering 13 runs in a span of six innings.
That led to his release, despite Oakland owing him the $6.5 million he's still due to be paid this season.
"His velocity was down a little bit, but he feels like he's got more in the tank," Mozeliak said. "Hopefully, if we can make some small adjustments with him and get him back to where he has that arm strength, there might be some lightning in a bottle for us."
If Fuentes is called up by the Cardinals, he'll likely take the role as the team's left-handed specialist. Left-handers have hit .265 against Fuentes this season, while righties check in at a .304 clip.
"I look at him, right now, as adding depth to that sixth or seventh inning that we know we need to do," Mozeliak said. "How he gets used or defined from there, I think time will tell."