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Cardinals introduce Cuban SS Diaz

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JUPITER, Fla. (AP) - After spending years trying to find a quality shortstop, the St. Louis Cardinals now appear to have an excess.

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The Cardinals introduced their newest acquisition, Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, on Monday. Within the organization, some have compared him to a young Derek Jeter.

''He walks like him you can see some of that there,'' St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak said.

Diaz liked to heard that.

''He thinks Derek Jeter is definitely the model ballplayer that everyone should look up to, that he looked up to in the opportunities that he had in Cuba to watch baseball games,'' said translator Moise Rodriguez, a team employee. ''He's a world-renowned baseball player that comes across as somebody that's a leader and somebody that everybody should try to be like.''

The Cardinals signed Diaz to a four-year deal over the weekend only months after signing current shortstop Jhonny Peralta, a two-time All-Star, to a free agent contract of the same length.

Having Peralta will allow the Cardinals to take their time with the 23-year-old Diaz, who will begin this season in the minor leagues and likely be given a chance to learn multiple infield positions.

''We plan on being patient with him,'' Mozeliak said. ''He hasn't played baseball in, really, over a year and a half competitively. It's not something where we're looking to have him put his fingerprints on the major league team tomorrow. We can give him time to develop and let him, from a talent standpoint, take his time to get back to where he was.''

Diaz defected from Cuba to Mexico in 2012. The Cardinals scouted Diaz in Mexico and worked him out earlier this spring at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.

''I thought he did a lot of things well,'' said St. Louis manager Mike Matheny, who attended the Jupiter workout. ''You are just looking at tools at that point. You can see that he's had some repetitions out there. He knows what he's doing. Swinging the bat, the ball jumped off. Just a guy that you could tell he's been around the game a while.''

Diaz hit .315 with 12 home runs in 270 at_bats during the 2011-12 season in Cuba.

Mozeliak expects Diaz to continue to hit for average with gap power as a major leaguer.

''We're very confident that he can be an offensive middle infielder, specifically a shortstop,'' Mozeliak said.

Diaz went through practice with his new team before Monday's game against Detroit, but it will be some time before he appears in a major league spring training exhibition. Later this week, he will return to Mexico to finalize his work visa.

Until that issue is cleared, Diaz can work out with the big league club but can only play in games on the back fields.

''It's always been his dream to try and compete at the highest level in the world,'' Rodriguez said. ''Obviously this represents that. Yeah, there are some challenges and difficulties. But for him, being able to come here and try to compete with the best in the world in the industry is something that he's always looked forward to doing.''

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

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The Associated Press
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