Cruz Returns to Cardinals

After spending the last three seasons with other teams, Tony Cruz is back with the St. Louis Cardinals–only this time he won’t be backing up Yadier Molina, he will be serving as the organization’s minor league catching instructor.

Making his Major League debut with the Cardinals in 2011, Cruz was part of the World Series championship team and appeared in at least 50 games each of the next four seasons with St. Louis. He then moved on to Kansas City, San Diego, and played in nine games with Cincinnati last season.

The hiring of Cruz was one of several moves the Cardinals announced today in regards to their minor league staff for 2019.

Former Major Leaguer Ben Johnson will enter his first season as manager at Memphis (AAA). He most recently coaching the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay-AAA) in 2018 after spending the three seasons prior as a scout with the Arizona Diamondbacks. His previous managerial experience came with the independent Arizona Centennials of the Freedom Pro League in 2012.

A native of Memphis, Johnson was drafted by the Cardinals out of high school in the 4th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft. After advancing to Peoria (A), he was traded to the San Diego Padres along with Heathcliff Slocumb in exchange for Carlos Hernandez and Nate Tebbs on July 31, 2000. Johnson made his big league debut with San Diego and also later played for the New York Mets.

Joe Kruzel will return to the helm of Springfield (AA) after managing the last two seasons at State College.

Dan Bilardello (Palm Beach-A), Roberto Espinoza (Johnson City –Rookie), Fray Peniche (DSL Blue) and John Matos (DSL Red) return to their respective teams. Erick Almonte moves to Peoria (A) as manager, and both Jose Leon (State College-A) and Joshua Lopez (GCL Cardinals-Rookie) have been promoted to managers.

Former Peoria manager Chris Swauger will move into a new role as Assistant Field Coordinator under Field Coordinator Mark DeJohn, and Johnny Rodriguez will serve as Minor League Infield Instructor. The Cardinals also recently announced Jose Oquendo as Minor League Roving Instructor.


–Besides the managerial news, the Memphis Redbirds also announced today their Auto Zone Park will host the 2019 Triple A National Championship game on September 17th. The Redbirds won that title last season after going 83-57, ironically defeating Johnson and the Durham Bulls.

photo credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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