Cards release Spiezio after six charges filed

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Scott Spiezio waited to take batting practice at the Cardinals spring training camp last week in Jupiter, Fla. (ROB CARR ~ Associated Press)

IRVINE, Calif. -- Utilityman Scott Spiezio was released by the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday after being charged in a six-count complaint involving drunken driving and assault in a December car crash.

"We had heard some things about this," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "Ultimately nothing was ever confirmed to the level it was today. To have this warrant put out there, it completely changes the landscape of what we're dealing with."

A warrant was issued Tuesday for Spiezio, who missed more than a month last year while getting treatment for substance abuse. The warrant was recalled Wednesday after Spiezio's attorney appeared in court, and the arraignment was continued to March 26.

The Orange County district attorney charged Spiezio with misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence, driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more, hit and run, aggravated assault, assault and battery.

"Scott is clean and sober, and has been for a significant period of time, and is fully prepared to continue his career," Spiezio's agent Barry Meister said. "He has had no problems at Cardinals' camp, is in great shape and was and is looking to have a great 2008 season."

Police said the accident occurred Dec. 30. The maximum penalty is two years in state prison.

Spiezio won World Series championships with Anaheim in 2002 and St. Louis in 2006.

Last year, he appeared in only 82 games because of injuries, illness and treatment, managing four homers, 31 RBIs and a .269 average.

Spiezio was entering the final season of a two-year, $4.5 million contract. He was released the same way most players are cut, for failure "to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability."

That means the Cardinals owe him this year's $2.3 million salary plus a $100,000 buyout of a $2.5 million team option for 2009.

Asked about Spiezio's release, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "I think it's a consistent message about what the team represents."

Irvine police responded to a report of a single-car crash at 12:20 a.m. on Dec. 30.

Officers found a 2004 BMW registered to Spiezio had crashed into a curb and fence. The driver was seen running from the crash site, Irvine police Lt. Rick Handfield said.

A neighbor told police Spiezio arrived at their condo complex appearing disheveled. The neighbor said Spiezio allegedly assaulted him, causing significant injuries, Handfield said.

Mozeliak said that he and La Russa met with Spiezio and his agent before spring training started to discuss the accident. The GM said team officials did not know until Wednesday that alcohol was allegedly involved.

"We were led to believe that there was a chance that some of this was not going to gravitate to the level that it did today," Mozeliak said. "Obviously what came to light today changed how we looked at it."

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