In Wednesday’s Rule 5 Draft, the St. Louis Cardinals selected right-handed relief pitcher Wilking Rodriguez with the 25th pick. It is the first time since 2015 that the Cardinals made a selection in the major league phase of the Rule 5 Draft.
Rodriguez (who turns 34 in March), signed a minor league with the New York Yankees last August, but did not pitch for the organization in 2022. He hasn’t pitched in affiliated baseball since 2015.
Wilking was first signed as an International FA by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007 where he pitched in their minor league system through 2013 before electing free agency.
He then went on to sign with the Kansas City Royals prior to the 2014 season. After stints for their AA & AAA affiliates, Rodriquez was called up and in 2 MLB appearances pitched 2 scoreless innings before being optioned back down and released at the end of the season.
A week later, the New York Yankees signed Wilking to a minor league contract and an invite to Spring Training for 2015. After not making the big league club, was sent to their Triple-A affiliate (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders). In April of 2015, Rodriquez was suspended 80-games for a PED violation. He did go 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA for Scranton.
Rodriguez spent the next four seasons out of affiliated baseball before signing with Rieleros de Aguascalientes of the Mexican League in 2020. However due to the Covid-19 pandemic, did not play with the cancellation of the season. The following year he re-signed with Aguascalientes where he went 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 appearances.
He has spent the last two seasons in the Mexican League, and while pitching for Tecolotes Dos Laredos in 2022, posted a 2.01 ERA in 46 appearances while striking out a 73 batters and walking 13 in 44.2 innings for a 14.7 K/9 rate.
Rodriguez again signed a minor league contract with the Yankees this past August, before the Cardinals selected him in yesterday’s draft.
Rodriguez must remain on the Cardinals' 26-man major league roster for the entire 2023 season or be offered back to the Yankees. Players in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft can be selected for $100,000 and must stick on the Major League active roster or be offered back to the original team for $50,000.
The Cardinals were also selected 4 players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft; catcher Jose Alvarez from the Astros and right-handers Brandon Komar (Padres), Jose Martinez (Dodgers) and Ryan Shreve (Twins).
They lost infielder Evan Mendoza, a 2017 11th-round pick who spent the last two seasons with Triple-A Memphis to the San Diego Padres in the first round.
Wilking Rodriguez cover photo credit: Laredo Morning Times