ST. LOUIS (AP) -Tomo Ohka signed a minor league contract with the pitching-strapped St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday, one day after being released by the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 31-year-old right-hander was 2-5 with a 5.79 ERA in 10 starts with the Blue Jays, who designated him for assignment on June 7. He signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal during the offseason with Toronto.
Ohka is scheduled to start on Wednesday for Triple-A Memphis.
``I think it's a smart move to get him into our organization and see what he's got,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ``But there's no guarantees. It depends on how he pitches.''
The Cardinals' beat-up rotation features three former relievers starting for the first time in the big leagues along with two others, Anthony Reyes and Kip Wells, who are a combined 2-19. Braden Looper, a fourth former reliever, went on the 15-day disabled list on Monday with a shoulder strain.
Ace Chris Carpenter is rehabbing from surgery in May to remove bone spurs from his elbow and Mark Mulder is recovering from rotator cuff surgery in September. Neither is expected back in the near future.
Carpenter, the NL Cy Young Award winner in 2005, is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Wednesday for the second time since his operation. Team physician Dr. George Paletta said if all goes well Carpenter, who threw at 75 percent effort on Sunday and is set to repeat that level on Wednesday, will increase intensity this weekend.
``We've got to take it step by step but right now he's certainly on schedule,'' Paletta said. ``He really had no soreness at all. It was positive all the way around.''
Last year, the Cardinals were ultimately successful with another struggling pitcher when Jeff Weaver hit his stride late in the season and had a victory in each round of the postseason. La Russa said pitching coach Dave Duncan had seen a lot of videotape on Weaver, but in this case it appears that the team is simply taking a flier.
``In this case, the expectation is send him to Triple-A and see how he throws,'' La Russa said. ``If he throws better than one of the five guys we have, he's here.''
The move came on the same day the Cardinals decided to scratch Wells, who leads the major leagues with 11 losses and a 6.93 ERA from his scheduled start against the Royals. Wells was informed about three hours before game-time.
Ohka, a native of Kyoto, Japan, had his best year in 2003 when he was 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA for the Montreal Expos. He would be the second Japanese player on the team along with reserve outfielder So Taguchi.

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