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Former St. Louis Cardinals find homes as spring training nears

With spring training fast approaching, several former Cardinals have recently signed contracts for the 2012 season.

Former St. Louis pitcher turned outfielder Rick Ankiel signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, the team for which he played in 2011. Ankiel started off his stay with Washington with a bang, hitting for power early. But he tailed off and later in the season the Nationals were looking for a replacement centerfielder. Fortunately for Ankiel, they never really found that guy. So, while he'll have to earn a roster spot in Grapefruit League play, if Ankiel hits the ball like he has in the past, he could very easily find his way back into the starting line-up. Joining Ankiel in the nation's capitol is pitcher Edwin Jackson who accepted a one-year contract with D.C. last week as opposed to inking a $30-million, three year deal that he thought was beneath a .500 career pitcher with a 4.50 ERA.

Brad Penny, whose one season with the Cardinals ended prematurely due to injury, spent the 2011 campaign in the American League with Detroit. He won 10 games but sported an ERA over 5.00, so there didn't seem to be much interest in brining him back to Detroit. Penny instead decided to take a contract for $4.5 million to play in Japan in 2012. He'll be twirling there for the Soft Bank Hawks. It used to be that players who were trying to stay in the game ended up in Japan where they kept their skills sharp and hoped for a call from a team in the good ol' U.S. of A. But these days it seems like older guys would rather take a big payday in the far east than accept an incentive-laden contract stateside.

Colby Rasmus trade throw in Corey Patterson inked a minor league deal with Milwaukee last week to presumably be Nyjer Morgan's understudy. This is the former Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Nationals, Blue Jays and Cardinals fly chasers second stint with Milwaukee. He was signed to a minor league deal by the Brewers in 2009 and hit .331 with their Class AAA team in Nashville. But after being called up to the big leagues he struggled mightily, batting only .071 with no homers or runs batted in for Milwaukee.