ANAHEIM -- The international signing period opened on Tuesday, and the Cardinals immediately announced deals reached with four players from Latin America.
Center fielder Carlos Talavera (Venezuela) and shortstop Hector Linares (Dominican Republic) headline the Cardinals' signees. Both are 16 years old, making this their first year of eligibility to be signed by a Major League team. Moises Rodriguez, the Cardinals' director of international operations, described both as having "legitimate prospect potential."
Talavera is a switch-hitter who stood out to Cardinals area scout Henry Sandoval largely because of his mature plate discipline. Rodriguez categorized Talavera as an above-average runner with sound defensive skills.
With Linares, the Cardinals are intrigued with the potential of his bat. Rodriguez noted that Linares has "tremendous bat speed for a wiry-built 16-year-old and has a nice inside-out stroke." Linares has above-average speed and was scouted heavily by Omar Rogers, the brother of Major Leaguer Esmil Rogers.
Both Linares and Talavera will report immediately to the Cardinals' academy in the Dominican Republic. The other two players who agreed to contract terms Tuesday -- right-hander Sandy Alcantara and lefty Kerrion Bennett -- are also headed to the Dominican Republic to begin their careers.
Alcantara, 17, is 6-foot-4 with a fastball registering in the low 90s. The Cardinals plan to develop the Dominican Republic native as a starter. Bennett, who is from Nicaragua, was an attractive find because of his raw athleticism. He, too, is 17 years old.
Though the international market opened for business on Tuesday, signings will continue throughout the year. The Collective Bargaining Agreement written after the 2011 season added a new wrinkle to the process, too. In order to curtail bloated contracts being offered to international prospects, Major League Baseball now gives teams a set pool of available money. Teams going spending more than their allotment will be penalized, and how much each club gets is determined by the opposite order of finish in the standings the year before.
All teams are allocated a base of $700,000 to spend in the market this year. The Cardinals received an additional $1.3606 million based upon their finish in 2012. Teams are free to include pool money in trades, as the Cubs did on Tuesday, in order to increase their funds.
Also, teams are free to sign six players to bonuses of $50,000 or less and not have it count against their pool. Any bonus of $10,000 or less is also exempt.
"With respect to cap space, these signings still allow flexibility to pursue quality players over the next 12 months of the signing period," Rodriguez said after Tuesday's four signings. "In this market, quality players of all ages pop year round so although we work hard to identify 15-16-year-old July 2 players, it's not the only pool of players we scout. We've got a couple of good ones in the system that weren't signed on July 2."
In that latter group, for instance, is top prospect and outfielder Oscar Taveras, who was signed in November 2008.
Holliday scratched with neck, back stiffness
ANAHEIM -- For the second straight game, manager Mike Matheny was forced to make a late change to his starting lineup. On Tuesday, it was Matt Holliday who, due to neck and upper-back stiffness, had to be pulled out.
Holliday told reporters, through a team spokesperson, that the stiffness started about the time he arrived at the ballpark. Matheny said it was bothersome enough to preclude Holliday from taking any swings during the team's pregame work.
"He can't turn his head," Matheny said. "He's ridiculously tough, so when he can't go out there and do something, it's not [minor]. He takes a lot of pride in days most guys wouldn't play, he plays. It's something he takes very seriously."
The need to unplug Holliday left Matheny to shuffle several parts of his lineup. Carlos Beltran, initially slated to serve as the designated hitter, moved to right field. Allen Craig shifted to left; David Freese became the team's DH; and Daniel Descalso was inserted to play third base.
Heading into Tuesday, Holliday had started 75 of the team's 81 games. Only Yadier Molina -- who started his 76th game on Tuesday -- has made more starts.
Minors Matters: Garcia, Martinez win June honors
ANAHEIM -- The Cardinals have recognized outfielder Anthony Garcia (Class A Advanced Palm Beach) and right-hander Carlos Martinez (Triple-A Memphis) as the organization's respective Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for June.
Garcia hit .385 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 17 games last month. On Monday, he was named the Florida State League's Player of the Week for the second time in June. During the weeklong stretch from June 24-30, Garcia had seven extra-base hits, four RBIs and eight runs scored.
Martinez returned to Memphis after a stint in the Cardinals' bullpen and went 2-2 with 2.20 ERA in six starts last month. He struck out 30 in 32 2/3 innings.
A few other notes from around the Cardinals' farm system:
• First baseman Brock Peterson and right-hander Michael Wacha have been named to the Pacific Coast League All-Star team, which will face the International League squad on July 17. Peterson, who has hit a PCL-high 19 home runs, will be in the starting lineup. Wacha will have the chance to pitch in relief.
• Tyler Lyons pitched seven shutout innings for Triple-A Memphis on Monday. The left-hander has not allowed a run in 14 innings since being sent down from St. Louis. In those two starts, Lyons has given up three hits, walked two and struck out 13.
• After a 13-day layoff that was scheduled to conserve his workload, Wacha returned to the mound for Memphis on Tuesday. Wacha pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out nine.
• ESPN announced that it has selected the Cardinals' July 28 game in Atlanta for a Sunday night broadcast. As a result, first pitch has been moved to 7:05 p.m. CT. This will be the Cardinals' fifth Sunday night game of the season and second in July. The Cardinals were already scheduled to have their July 14 game against the Cubs shown in primetime.
• Manager Mike Matheny said that Joe Kelly would be available for a short stint out of the bullpen on Tuesday even though Kelly is in line to start for the Cardinals on Saturday. If Kelly is not needed on Tuesday, he'll throw a side session on Wednesday and then be out of commission until his start.
• Matt Adams returned to the lineup on Tuesday after recovering from an episode of food poisoning. Adams had to be scratched from Sunday's lineup due to an illness that he believes stemmed from eating some bad salmon.
• Prior to Tuesday's game, former Cardinals player Albert Pujols held a news conference to introduce an online documentary posted on iamsecond.com in which Pujols discusses his upbringing and his foundation of faith and family. During a question-and-answer question, Pujols, unsolicited, cited Matheny as one of the most influential people early in his career.
• The Cardinals' stop at Angel Stadium this week is the organization's first in Interleague Play. Anaheim was the only Major League city the Cardinals had not visited since the inception of Interleague Play in 1997.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.