A large impression: Hancock may make Cards staff after release by Reds

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Cincinnati cut the right-hander one day into spring training due to his weight increase.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Every time he steps on the mound, Josh Hancock proves he's not just a tubby right-hander.

Released by the Cincinnati Reds one day into spring training because he reported 17 pounds overweight, Hancock quickly landed with the St. Louis Cardinals. He's on the verge of making the team's bullpen, having allowed only five hits in 8 1-3 scoreless innings.

"When I came in, I don't think anybody expected a whole lot," Hancock said. "I don't expect anything.

"I get what I get by doing hard work, and the results have been really good."

Hancock, 27, is reluctant to talk about his exit from the Reds. He prefers to concentrate on the present.

"Was I overweight?" he said. "I don't know. That's a chapter that's over with, and now I'm with a better team, a better organization, a great organization."

In mid-February, Reds manager Jerry Narron said that Hancock reported well above his listed playing weight of 207 pounds, and general manager Wayne Krivsky went along with Narron's suggestion to release Hancock.

As justification, Narron pointed to Hancock spending 133 days on the disabled list last season. He injured his groin in the final spring game and aggravated the injury during a rehabilitation stint with Triple-A Louisville in June, and during another rehab assignment in the minors developed a sore elbow that sidelined him again.

September to remember

Last September, Hancock showed promise while going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 11 relief appearances. Whatever his weight, he's been impressive since joining the Cardinals.

"It's impossible to analyze and second-guess other organizations," manager Tony La Russa said. "What you do is look at how a pitcher or player fits into your situation and whether it's even smart to give them an opportunity.

"Based on what we had seen against us, it was, and he's done a good job with us. So he's still here."

Hancock and rookie Adam Wainwright, who had been under consideration for the fifth starting spot until it was given to Sidney Ponson last week, are the top contenders for the two vacant bullpen jobs.

"He's been very impressive," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "I didn't know anything about him really, but he's done a good job."

Although he considers himself a control and not a power pitcher, Hancock had two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh on Sunday, and has 10 strikeouts overall.

The competition has become fierce. Jeff Nelson was released on Sunday even though he allowed only one hit and no runs in 5 2-3 innings.

"Everybody sees what everybody else is doing," Hancock said. "We're all competing for jobs and we know there are spots.

"We're not idiots, we do think about it, so you go out there and give it your all."

Nelson, 39, said he was "shocked" to be released. He had thought he had been called into a meeting to be told he was being added to the 25-man roster.

La Russa said Monday he saw Nelson's point about judging the results. He said he cut him with a week left in camp to give him a chance to catch on somewhere else.

"I've seen Jeff a lot over the years and although he was getting sharper, I thought the other guys had an edge on him," La Russa said.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: