JUPITER, Fla. When the Cardinals receive their World Series rings during a pregame ceremony on April 14, new reliever Scott Linebrink could make a case that he should be among those receiving rings.
After all, it was Linebrink's Atlanta Braves who suffered a monumental slump down the stretch that allowed the Cardinals to reach the playoffs in the first place.
"I feel like I played a little bit of a part in that, just with the collapse we had over in Atlanta," Linebrink said. "It was crazy. It was like a three-week car wreck, watching it in slow motion.
"It was hard to watch."
But as hard as it may be for him to watch the Cardinals hang their 11th World Series banner, Linebrink is just hoping for the opportunity. The 35-year-old signed a minor league deal with the club and is not guaranteed a roster spot.
Regarded as the most dominant setup reliever in baseball for a couple years earlier in his career, Linebrink posted a respectable 3.64 ERA in 64 games with Atlanta last season.
With his prior credentials in hand and coming off a strong year, the 12-year big league veteran expected to have plenty of teams interested in his services this season.
He was wrong.
"I guess I'm old, I don't know," Linebrink joked. "It seems like you get to 35 and they are calling you washed up. I didn't know what the offseason was going to hold but I thought at the end of the year last year it shouldn't be too hard to get offers, but for whatever reason, it was just a little more difficult."
Only one team offered him a guaranteed roster spot but because the situation wasn't one he wanted to entertain this late in his career, Linebrink turned it down. Only three other teams offered him minor league deals San Francisco, Colorado and St. Louis.
At that point, the decision became quite easy.
"When you talk about St. Louis, I can't think of anything bad," Linebrink said. "It's in the Central. It's in the National League. It's a great baseball town, a great city, a classy organization. I've just always been impressed by this team.
"I know there were a lot of guys that had a hard time finding jobs so I'm just grateful for the opportunity to come over here. This was my number one choice. I really wanted to make this work and I'm glad that it did."
A veteran of 607 career games, the right-hander holds a 42-31 record and a 3.51 ERA in 12 big league seasons with the Giants, Astros, Padres, Brewers, White Sox and Braves.
His best years came with San Diego, when he made 73 appearances in three consecutive seasons and posted a 2.14 ERA in 2003 and a 1.83 ERA in 2004.
The Cardinals were already facing a numbers crunch in the bullpen before signing Linebrink. His addition makes things even more crowded, with nine relievers vying for seven spots.
But most of the relievers are young and unseasoned, making the veteran Linebrink an attractive option as a mentor and leader.
"The front office saw an opportunity to bring in a veteran presence, somebody that has had some success," said manager Mike Matheny. "But I think it's a leadership position down there to give him an opportunity to win a spot on this staff by experience.
"He's got good stuff. He filled a great role on a very, very talented bullpen in Atlanta last year and he filled a role where he came in and filled some tough innings. The majority of his innings were late in the game for a team that had a great season. I think he brings a lot to the table and I think it's the beauty of competition."
Linebrink appears confident that he will make the roster if he pitches to his ability, saying he picked a non-guaranteed deal with St. Louis over a sure spot because of his desire to be a Cardinal.
And with most teams passing on the veteran, Linebrink is motivated to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank.
"The roster spot all that stuff that has a way of taking care of itself if it's meant to be," Linebrink said. "That wasn't really important to me. It was more important to want to be on a team that I wanted to play for and having guys I already knew coming over here. That definitely had a lot to do with it.
"I've always been an underdog my whole career. I've never really had that label that I was expected to do a whole lot. People have been telling me I don't have what it takes for a long time. I just want to see it all the way through. I've been playing now for 15 years and I just want to finish it the right way."
Even if it means watching his new teammates collect the hardware he so badly wanted to win last year. And what he hopes to help them win again.