JUPITER, Fla. -- After countless trips to Cuba, Mexico and other parts of the world to scout 23-year old Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, he put on a Cardinals uniform for the very first time Monday morning.
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And when he plays in a game it will be his first game in 18 months. The newest Cardinal says he can't be any happier that the waiting is over and he can finally play baseball again.
"It was a very difficult process. It was a process that, at times, was very stressful but it did allow him to reflect on the things he can do to improve as a ballplayer," Diaz said through a translator. "I also used this time to prepare because I knew this day would come."
His Grapefruit League debut will be delayed until he can get his work visa figured out though. But GM John Mozeliak says it won't be too long until he gets that squared away and plays in a game.
"We're hopeful he can get down there sometime early next week and maybe miss a day or two and then be back in camp and hopefully be at a point where he can participate in a spring training game," Mozeliak said.
Diaz hit .315 in 2012, his last season playing in Cuba, and will primarily play shortstop for the Cards. He has the versatility to move to second base or even third, but Mozeliak says shortstop is his home for now.
The GM also made sure to announce the Cuban will not be playing in St. Louis right away. Since he hasn't played a meaningful game in 18 months he needs time to get ready in the minor leagues. Which level he goes to remains to be seen.
"It's a little premature to start guessing where he may end up," Mozeliak said. "But I wouldn't rule out AA just to let him get his feet wet. We're open minded on this and there's no rush to jump to any conclusions."
But, in the end, the offensively gifted middle infielder doesn't care how long it takes. He just wants to get to St. Louis.
"I chose the Cardinals in part because the follow up process and they respected my skill set. They paid a lot of attention to me through the process. I also like the St. Louis fan base. There's a tradition there with the team and knows they'll appreciate my hard work when I go on the field," Diaz said.