ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have added to their catching depth by reaching a Minor League agreement with 28-year-old backstop J.R. Towles. The club will provide an official comment after Towles signs a contract.
Towles' agreement does include an invite to Major League Spring Training, thereby increasing the Cardinals' list of non-roster invitees to three. Catcher Rob Johnson and outfielder Justin Christian are also on that list.
In adding Towles, the Cardinals have replenished themselves at a catching position that was thin after losing Bryan Anderson and Steven Hill after the season. Towles will compete with Tony Cruz and Johnson for the job of backing up Yadier Molina in St. Louis, though Cruz, Molina's backup in 2012, remains the heavy favorite to hold that position again.
After appearing in 54 games with the Astros in 2011, Towles became a free agent and signed a Minor League deal with the Twins. He did not ascend to the Majors during the 2012 season and played 52 games for Minnesota's Triple-A Rochester (N.Y.) affiliate. Towles hit .214 in 168 at-bats.
Before that, he played parts of five seasons with Houston, appearing in a career-high 54 games in 2008 and 2011. In 428 career big league at-bats, Towles has a .187 batting average and .267 on-base percentage. Towles was the Astros' 20th-round selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.