ST. LOUIS -- Major League Baseball's international signing period has been ongoing for three weeks now, and in addition to the three signees the Cardinals have already announced, another two players from the Dominican Republic have agreed to terms.
Those two deals will become official once MLB finishes its background check and both players -- Magneuris Sierra and pitcher Estarlin Arias -- pass their respective physicals.
That process has already been completed for the other three players the Cardinals have signed out of Latin America -- Joshua Lopez (Venezuela), Edmundo Sosa (Panama) and Luis Bandes (Venezuela).
According to sources, the highest bonus went to Lopez, who signed for $475,000. Sosa received $425,000, while Bandes ($350,000) and Sierra ($105,000) also each collected six-figure sums. The smallest bonus went to Arias ($30,000), whose situation is particularly unique.
Arias, who turned 18 in May, actually agreed to a contract with the Nationals in January, but that deal was voided after Arias tested positive for metabolites of Boldenone. MLB announced in April that upon signing with another team, Arias would be suspended 50 games for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Arias began serving the suspension on July 18.
According to Moises Rodriguez, director of international operations for the Cardinals, all five players are at the organization's academy in the Dominican Republic. There, they can participate in local leagues, since they are not eligible to join one of the Cardinals' Minor League affiliates until next summer.
July 2 marked the first day that teams could sign international players who are at least 16 years old. The signing period is ongoing, and the Cardinals continue to evaluate other potential signees. In accordance with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cardinals can spend up to $2.9 million on international players without incurring a penalty this year.
"We're always active due to the nature of the international free-agent market," Rodriguez said, "so more acquisitions are possible."
In game of matchups, Freese gets rare night off
ST. LOUIS -- For just the second time since June 26, Cardinals third baseman David Freese did not find his name in manager Mike Matheny's starting lineup.
There's nothing to be concerned about, though, as Freese is neither dealing with an injury nor being rested as a result of a slump. Rather, this lineup decision has everything to do with a matchup issue.
Matheny saw no better opportunity to give Freese a breather than on Monday, with the Dodgers sending right-hander Chad Billingsley to the mound in the series opener. A career .294 hitter against right-handed pitching, Freese is 0-for-6 against Billingsley. Freese has struck out in all six of those at-bats. Matt Carpenter got the start at third for the Cardinals in place of Freese.
Freese is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday.
With Lance Berkman making the start at first base, Allen Craig also sat on Monday. Craig continues to deal with quad soreness, though it is minor enough that Craig can play through it when necessary. He is likely to start in place of Berkman on Tuesday with left-hander Clayton Kershaw taking the mound.
Left-hander Kyle Helisek was named the New York-Penn League's Pitcher of the Week on Monday. Helisek, who is starting for short-season Batavia (N.Y.), tossed six hitless innings in a start for the Muckdogs last Wednesday. He struck out two in the outing. Helisek was taken by the Cardinals in the 30th round of the First-Year Player Draft last month. Wednesday marked just his third professional start.
Lefty Brian Fuentes has joined Double-A Springfield and is scheduled to make appearances on Tuesday and Wednesday. Initially, Fuentes was slated to throw on Monday, though this change will allow him to get work on back-to-back days.
Fuentes signed a Minor League deal on July 14 and is working through a Minor League throwing program that has him on track to join the Cardinals by the end of the month. If St. Louis does not call him up by July 31, Fuentes can opt out of the contract.
Four of the Cardinals' seven relievers entered Monday having not allowed a run this month. Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski are among 19 National League pitchers who have made at least five appearances and not allowed a run in July.
Lance Berkman, who started and hit fifth on Monday, entered the game riding a 33-game on-base streak at Busch Stadium. The streak began on July 31, 2011, and is the longest active home on-base streak in the Majors.
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.