The Padres are expected to keep shortstop Allen Cordoba on their opening day roster after selecting him from the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft. (File) 

By Rob Rains

The Cardinals made a calculated gamble when they set their 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft in December. They knew Allen Cordoba was an exciting infield prospect but they also knew he had never played a game above rookie ball.

They thought the odds were good that another organization, even if it liked Cordoba, would not pick him with the knowledge that he would have to remain on their major-league roster for the entire season – an assignment the Cardinals did not think would be a reality.

The Cardinals lost the first part of that gamble when the Padres took Cordoba with the third pick in that draft, but even then the Cardinals held out hope that the Padres would elect to send Cordoba back to the Cardinals before this season began – a procedure which often happens with Rule 5 picks.

With just over a week left before opening day, however, it doesn’t look like that will happen.

The Padres are expected to keep Cordoba, 21, on their roster – one of three Rule 5 picks who likely will stick as the Padres make more of a commitment to their future than to their present.

Cordoba has gone 8-for-49 this spring, a .163 average, with 16 strikeouts, but likely will be used mostly as a pinch-runner and a defensive replacement during the regular season. It’s a sacrifice the Padres appear willing to make as a way to add a talented player to their organization they otherwise would never have been able to get.

The Padres have even used Cordoba in the outfield this spring to try to increase his versatility.

The other two Rule 5 picks expected to stick with the Padres are a relief pitcher and a catcher.

“We took them for a reason," Padres general manager A.J. Preller told MLB.com this spring. "I don't think we took all three guys saying we have to only keep one. ... We're going to go with the guys that earn it, and there's definitely a scenario where all three guys end up making the club."

Cordoba, a native of Panama, won the Appalachian League batting title last year with a .362 average to lead Johnson City to the league championship. He ranked third in the league with 22 stolen bases and likely would have been in line for a promotion to Class A Peoria if he was still with the Cardinals.

There were some in the Cardinals organization who were surprised by the decision to not protect Cordoba on the 40-man roster, but understood the risk the organization was taking. Part of the decision was based on the fact the Cardinals have two quality shortstop prospects in Delvin Perez, the top pick in last year’s draft, and Edmundo Sosa, both of whom are younger than Cordoba, as well as having confidence in Paul DeJong’s ability to play shortstop after watching him there in the Arizona Fall League. He will start this season at Memphis.

There is still a chance the Cardinals could wind up getting Cordoba back at some point this year. If the Padres decide they can’t continue to keep him on their 25-man roster, they would have to offer him back to the Cardinals.

At the moment though, the Cardinals probably should not count on that happening.

Here is a look at how some other players are doing after moving on from the Cardinals over the winter. All statistics are through Thursday’s games:

Tim Cooney, Indians
– The Cardinals lost the left-handed pitcher on a waiver claim to the Indians when they tried to outright him off the 40-man roster. Unfortunately for Cooney, another injury is going to force him to miss the first couple months of this season after sitting out all of last year at Memphis because of shoulder surgery. This latest injury Is to Cooney’s forearm, and the Indians hope he can be pitching at Triple A by the end of May.

Jaime Garcia, Braves
– Garcia has had a good spring and will open the season as the third starter for the Braves. In his fifth start Thursday night, he allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings against the Tigers, lowering his ERA to 2.63.

Jeremy Hazelbaker, Diamondbacks – Arizona claimed Hazelbaker when the Cardinals tried to slip him through waivers and outright him off the 40-man roster. He was a valuable pinch-hitter for the Cardinals last year and probably will be used in the same role for the Diamondbacks, although a couple of spring injuries could give him more playing time in the outfield. Hazelbaker has not had a good spring, however, hitting just .186 through Wednesday.

Matt Holliday, Yankees
– Holliday signed a one-year deal with the Yankees as a free agent after the Cardinals declined his 2017 option. He has the ability to DH with the American League team, and that likely will be his primary role although he also could see some time in left field or at first base. Holliday reports his thumb which was broken when he was hit by a pitch last year, has healed and he has had a good spring, posting a .308 average.

Dean Kiekhefer, Mariners – Another player lost by the Cardinals on a waiver claim, Kiekhefer also was dropped from the Mariners 40-man roster but came to spring training as a non-roster player, trying to win a job in the bullpen. He has pitched in seven games posting a 3.52 ERA. He has eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings, but it appears he will begin the regular season in Triple A.

Seth Maness, Royals – After throwing for scouts in early February, Maness signed a minor-league contract as a free agent with the Royals. He is coming back from the “primary” repair surgery on his right elbow which ended his 2016 season, and has yet to pitch in a game this spring. He has been throwing in the bullpen and likely will begin the year on the disabled list, then pitch in Triple A before joining the Royals a month or two into the season.

Brandon Moss, Royals - It was a tough winter for first-basemen/DH types and Moss had to wait until late January before getting a two-year deal with the Royals. Moss likely will be used as a DH, first baseman and outfielder by Kansas City. He missed some games this spring because of a sore back, and has a .231 average with one homer.

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