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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Cards cut Spiezio after six-count arrest warrant issued

Associated Press

IRVINE, Calif. -- Utilityman Scott Spiezio was cut by the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, released after being charged in a six-count complaint involving drunken driving and assault in a December car crash.

Scott Spiezio

Spiezio

"We had heard some things about this," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "Ultimately nothing was ever confirmed to the level it was today. To have this warrant put out there, it completely changes the landscape of what we're dealing with."

A warrant was issued Tuesday for Spiezio, who missed more than a month last year while getting treatment for substance abuse. The warrant was recalled Wednesday after Spiezio's attorney appeared in court, and the arraignment was continued to March 26.

The Orange County district attorney charged Spiezio with misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence, driving under the influence with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more, hit and run, aggravated assault, assault and battery.

"We anticipate a successful resolution to this misdemeanor matter," attorney Paul Meyer said.

The 35-year-old Spiezio did not play in Wednesday's exhibition game against St. Louis University at Jupiter, Fla.

"Scott and I will have a statement at a later date," Spiezio's agent, Barry Meister, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

"Scott is clean and sober and has been for a significant period of time and is fully prepared to continue his career. He has had no problems at Cardinals camp, is in great shape and was and is looking to have a great 2008 season," he said.

Police said the accident occurred Dec. 30. The maximum penalty is two years in state prison.

"We've never been able to talk to him," Irvine police Lt. Rick Handfield said. "The detective has expressed an interest in having Mr. Spiezio come to California."

Spiezio won World Series championships with Anaheim in 2002 and St. Louis in 2006. He has cultivated a hard-rocking image during his 12 seasons in the majors and plays in the heavy metal band SandFrog.

He batted .272 in 119 games with 13 homers and 52 RBIs in 2006. Last year, he appeared in only 82 games because of injuries, illness and treatment, managing only four homers, 31 RBIs and a .269 average.

Spiezio was entering the final season of a two-year, $4.5 million contract. He was released the same way most players are cut, for failure "to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability."

That means the Cardinals owe him this year's $2.3 million salary plus a $100,000 buyout of a $2.5 million team option for 2009 -- because of that, the likelihood of a grievance by the players' union is small.

Asked about Spiezio's release, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "I think it's a consistent message about what the team represents."

"It wasn't like he escaped last year without catching some heat and the organization acting to try to get him right," he said.

When the Cardinals activated him from the restricted list last September, Spiezio said, "I was out of control for a while. I learned a lot and I'm ready to start contributing in a good way now."

At the time, Spiezio said he'd been struggling with substance abuse for six or seven months, although he wouldn't disclose the substance, saying, "I'll save that for the book."

Spiezio is best remembered in Anaheim for a three-run homer in Game 6 against the San Francisco Giants that helped the Angels rally from the largest deficit ever in a potential Series-deciding game.

Spiezio played in Seattle for two seasons before joining the Cardinals in 2006 and helping them win the World Series that year.

Irvine police responded to a report of a single-car crash at 12:20 a.m. on Dec. 30.

Officers found a 2004 BMW registered to Spiezio had crashed into a curb and fence. The driver was seen running from the crash site, Handfield said.

A neighbor told police Spiezio arrived at their condo complex appearing disheveled and apparently injured. The neighbor said Spiezio allegedly assaulted him, causing significant injuries, Handfield said.

Mozeliak said that he and La Russa met with Spiezio and his agent before spring training started to discuss the accident. The GM said team officials did not know until Wednesday that alcohol was allegedly involved.

"We were led to believe that there was a chance that some of this was not going to gravitate to the level that it did today," Mozeliak said. "Obviously what came to light today changed how we looked at it. We decided we had to react."

Spiezio was devastated by the death of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, who was legally intoxicated when he crashed into the back of a flatbed truck last April.

Spiezio said the situation might have pushed him deeper into dependency.

"You've got to put yourself in the right situations, sometimes change friends or go out to breakfast with a friend and not to a place where you can start making bad decisions," he said in January. "I've got to be in a frame of mind where I can't lose focus in any way."