Mozeliak replaces former boss Jocketty with Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Cardinals hired John Mozeliak as their new general manager Wednesday, promoting him to replace the fired Walt Jocketty.

The 38-year-old Mozeliak was the Cardinals' assistant GM for the last five years. He got a three-year contract.

Mozeliak has been with the organization more than a dozen years and served as interim GM after Jocketty was dismissed on Oct. 3.

"I can tell you I was extremely impressed with what he got done," team president Mark Lamping said. "We didn't miss a step, we took a step forward."

While interim GM, Mozeliak picked up an $8 million option on closer Jason Isringhausen, re-signed starter Joel Pineiro to a two-year, $13 million deal and re-signed reliever Russ Springer to a one-year, $3.5 million deal.

"Mo has been instrumental in our success this decade," Cardinals chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said. "He brings a great deal of strength to all areas of our operation."

Mozeliak said he's already working to make the Cardinals stronger for 2008.

"Everyone knows the landscape's changing at the major league level, and we have to adapt," Mozeliak said.

The hiring signified a stay-the-course stance for the Cardinals, coming off a disappointing 78-win season a year after winning the World Series. Tony La Russa returned as manager for a 13th season with a two-year deal nine days ago.

The Cardinals interviewed three other assistant general managers: Chris Antonetti of the Cleveland Indians, Peter Woodfork of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Rick Hahn of the Colorado Rockies. Also interviewed was Jon Weil, manager of minor league operations for the Rockies.

Antonetti was the other finalist. He called the St. Louis GM position "one of the best jobs in the game" and admitted to being "blown away" and "immensely impressed" with DeWitt.

"I am very fortunate to be in a great personal and professional situation in Cleveland," Antonetti said. "I feel privileged to have been considered for the opportunity in St. Louis."

Jocketty was dismissed largely because of friction in the front office with Jeff Luhnow, a team vice president in charge of amateur scouting and player development. Luhnow, who has been the point man for the franchise's increased presence in international scouting, was not a candidate for the GM opening.

"I think a lot of that's been overrated," Mozeliak said. "I will say this: My working relationship with Jeff has been outstanding.

"What he's done to this point has allowed us to make better decisions as we move forward and it would be ludicrous for me to ignore that," he said.

Jocketty helped the team reach the postseason seven times in 12 seasons, one of the best stretches in franchise history.

Mozeliak, who joined the organization in 1995, has interviewed for GM openings in Cincinnati and Houston. He has a scouting background, beginning his career with the Cardinals as an assistant in scouting operations and rising to director of baseball operations in 2001 and scouting director in 2003-04.

"You don't necessarily dream about being a general manager, but as you work in the game you start to have aspirations," Mozeliak said. "I really welcome this opportunity."

La Russa returned despite speculation he would leave following Jocketty's dismissal. He and Jocketty had worked together since they were at Oakland in the 1980s, and Jocketty hired La Russa before the 1996 season.

DeWitt said La Russa approved of the hiring.

"Tony was very supportive," DeWitt said. "I stayed in touch with him regularly on the various candidates and spoke with him again last night. He's looking forward to working with the group."

Information from ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and The Associated Press contributed to this report.