Weaver optioned to Memphis

The Cardinals announced today that they have optioned RHP Luke Weaver to Memphis and recalled RHP Sam Tuivailala ahead of today’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Weaver heads back to Memphis following the best start of his brief MLB career. On Wednesday he allowed 2 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out 8 in 6.1 innings of work against the Milwaukee Brewers. He made two starts in St. Louis while covering for Adam Wainwright who is on the disabled list and expected to return this weekend in Cincinnati.

This will be Tuivailala’s fifth stint with the big league club this season as he is called up to support the bullpen. He has a 2.40 ERA over 20 appearances with St. Louis this season, allowing a 1.19 WHIP and striking out 8.1 per nine. During his last stint he posted a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP while striking out 10 in 10 innings of work. While in Memphis since, he threw five scoreless innings in four appearances.

I’d expect him to be returned to Memphis this weekend when the club activates Adam Wainwright in his return to the rotation.

Cardinals call up Carson Kelly as Grichuk and Duke are activated

The St. Louis Cardinals have called called up catcher Carson Kelly and activated outfielder Randal Grichuk and left handed reliever Zach Duke off the disabled list. To make room for them, the Cardinals optioned right handed reliever Sam Tuivailala to Memphis, outfielder Magneuris Sierra to Springfield, and designated catcher Eric Fryer for assignment.

Kelly, 23, was hitting .283/.375/.459 with 10 home runs in 68 games with Memphis this season after going homerless in 32 games with Memphis last season. Kelly appeared in 10 games last season for the big league Cardinals and hit .153/.214/.231. It seemed that his promotion may be coming when Cardinals’ President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak indicated that his opportunity was coming.

The former gold glove catcher has been viewed as Yadier Molina‘s heir apparent behind the plate, but just how the two will co-exist on the roster is still yet to be determined. When discussing Kelly, Mozeliak indicated that the two would share time. Fryer, Molina’s backup prior to today, had started 15 of the team’s 95 games behind the plate. That would leave Molina on a pace to start 136, the second most in a season in his career.

How much time they split likely will fall back on how well Molina is playing. He finished off June with a 16 game hitting streak, but so far in July is hitting just .259/.293/.370. Those should be achievable numbers for Kelly.

The Cardinals also recalled Zach Duke who they received in a trade last July from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Charlie Tilson. Duke pitched well to finish out the year, posting a 1.93 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 28 appearances, but had to undergo Tommy John surgery after the season. The club held onto him and he returned to the mound earlier this month. He has thrown 9 scoreless innings and allowed just 4 hits and 1 walk in 9 rehab appearances.

Randal Grichuk is also back with the club and will be starting tonight. Grichuk has struggled to find his groove this season, hitting just .215/.270/.408 with 9 home runs in 61 games. After a nearly month-long stint in the minors, Grichuk returned in late June and batted .196/.250/.500 with 5 home runs in 15 games until he was placed on the disabled list after returning to the club after the All Star break.

Going down will be outfielder Magneuris Sierra, much to the disappointment of fans who enjoy his style. Sierra has gotten good results, batting .365/.400/.365 through his 13 career games over now three cups of coffee in the big leagues, however he still lacks the polish necessary. All 19 of his hits have been singles as he will need to develop more gap power to become a player that can be worth playing for his bat and not just his glove. At 21 though, he has time on his side. He will return to Springfield where he is batting .293/.326/.403 this season.

Also down is right handed reliever Sam Tuivailala, which I think is a shame. In 21 innings of work this season, Tuivailala has a 2.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. His WHIP ranks third in the bullpen behind John Brebbia (0.77) and Matthew Bowman (1.07). Regardless, Tuivailala could not break into more important innings, going nearly two weeks between his last two outings. Since his last recall, Tuivaila had allowed just 1 earned run over 10 innings of work for a 0.90 ERA and 0.90 WHIP.

And the club may say goodbye to Eric Fryer who has been designated for assignment. Fryer joined the last last season as a catcher for Memphis, but was pushed to the big leagues after injury to Brayan Pena. He would be designated for assignment last summer by the Cardinals as well, being picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates. His first game with Pittsburgh was against the Cardinals where he went 2-for-4 with 3 RBI and the Twitter hashtag #FryersRemorse was born.

After they released Pena over the winter, the club signed Fryer to serve as Molina’s backup this season. He has started 15 games and appeared in 19 others, batting .155/.277/.197 for the Cardinals.

Tuivailala, Gonzales up; DeJong optioned; Peralta released

The St. Louis Cardinals completed the option of infielder Paul DeJong by calling up RHP Sam Tuivailala from Memphis to join the big league bullpen. LHP Marco Gonzales was also recalled to serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader and IF Jhonny Peralta has officially been given his release.

This will be Tuivailala’s third stint in the big leagues this season. He has a 3.27 ERA and 1.36 WHIP over 11 innings out of the St. Louis bullpen. Down in Memphis he holds a 1.65 ERA and 0.67 WHIP over 16 innings.

DeJong was optioned on Sunday, but the moves were not announced until the corresponding move was decided. DeJong hit .244/.244/.390 over 12 games while up and filling in for the injured Kolten Wong. Wong returned on Friday and DeJong has yet to play since, so he will be sent to Memphis where he can get playing time. After starting out well, DeJong struggled lately, batting just .154 over his final 7 games.

The move for Tuivailala returns to the Cardinals to 13 pitchers on their 25 man roster, which John Mozeliak told the UCB Bloggers this weekend is the preference of Mike Matheny and his coaching staff.

Gonzales is also called up to serve as the 26th man for today’s doubleheader and he is scheduled to start the night half of the doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers. This will be his first time in the Major Leagues since 2015. After missing all of last year with Tommy John, Gonzales has a 2.97 ERA in six minor league starts this season.

And finally, the Cardinals have officially given Peralta his unconditional release after designating him for assignment on Friday. The move was not unexpected, but the Cardinals likely placed him on waivers to see if they could avoid paying the remainder of Peralta’s $10 million salary, but after he went unclaimed went ahead and released him.

Cardinals option Tuivailala

The Cardinals announced today that they have optioned right handed pitcher Sam Tuivailala to Memphis. With 10 days until Opening Day, the move reduces the number of players in Major League camp to 42, including 11 non-roster invitees.

Tuivailala, 24, is one of the pitchers I identified in my most recent column as a contender for the final spot in the bullpen. The decision on him appears to be made, however.

Outside of one appearance, Tuivailala had a solid spring for the Cardinals. On March 12th against Miami, Tuivailala pitched 0.2 innings and allowed 4 runs on 2 hits, 2 walks, and a hit batter. He made five other appearances for the big league club this spring, pitching 6 scoreless innings with a 1.00 WHIP.

But on the bright side, he did strikeout 12 batters over those 6.2 innings of work. The only pitcher in camp with more is Michael Wacha with 15, who has also pitched 10 more innings.

That leaves Tuivailala in Memphis to start the season where he struggled last year with a 5.21 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in 47 innings of work. He’s broken his curveball back out in and effort to add more weapons to his arsenal, but Tuivailala will be out of options next spring, so this is the year for him to show the Cardinals he deserves a spot in the 2018 bullpen.

With Tuivailala being optioned out and Tyler Lyons not likely to be ready for Opening Day, it looks like the final bullpen spot will likely go to Miguel Socolovich.

Column: Who takes Alex Reyes’ bullpen spot?

It might be the question that’s not been asked this spring by almost anyone. The focus has been on Michael Wacha whose hold on the fifth starter spot is now virtually unchallenged, but Alex Reyes was always most likely headed to the bullpen if he ended up in St. Louis this season. So instead of talking about Wacha, maybe we should be asking who is in line to take Reyes’ spot in the bullpen. Or at least an easier path to do so.

There are typically seven spots in the bullpen, two for lefties and five for righties. But with Brett Cecil and Kevin Siegrist expected to play heavy roles regardless of the handedness of the batters their facing, that rule of thumb is probably out the window when it comes to bullpen composition.

Cecil and Siegrist, along with Seung-hwan Oh, Trevor Rosenthal, Jonathan Broxton, and Matthew Bowman are likely secure in their positions on the Cardinals’ roster entering 2017. That leaves one opening that, until pitchers reported a couple weeks ago and Reyes reported elbow troubles, likely had Alex Reyes’ named penciled into it.

There are likely four pitchers now who have their hats in the ring for the final spot in the bullpen.

Tyler Lyons. Tyler Lyons is the first player on my list. Lyons is returning from a knee injury and may not be ready on Opening Day, which complicates matters. But I’ve been a big believer in Lyons’ ability as a reliever, thinking he can be a reliever near to the level of an Andrew Miller. Over the past four years for the Cardinals, Lyons has worked 90 innings out of the bullpen with a 2.69 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP.

However you want to cut his stats, a WHIP around or less than 1.00 is pretty dominant in baseball today. Lyons’ 1.02 WHIP last season was 30th among 196 Major League relievers who threw 30+ innings last season. And second on the Cardinals only to Oh.

But he still needs to prove his health and is still not yet cleared to play in games.

Miguel Socolovich. Miguel Socolovich is the second player on my list, mainly due to the path of least resistance. Socolovich has no options remaining and will either need to make the club or pass through waivers. Socolovich has been nothing but effective when he’s been with the big league club over the past two seasons, posting a 1.89 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over 48 innings of work for the Cardinals.

He has carried that dominance into this spring, throwing 6 innings so far this spring with a 0.33 WHIP, including a 1-2-3 inning where the ball never left the infield in the only spring training game I watched. He’s been getting work closing out games and has been dominant in that role. He allowed a hit to the third batter he faced this spring and has faced his next 15 batters without allowing anyone on base.

The fact that Socolovich has pitched as well as he has and hasn’t been able to elbow his way into more important innings doesn’t bode well for him. Especially as he was the Cardinals’ best reliever last September.

Sam Tuivailala. The third option is Sam Tuivailala. Tuivailala has been a reliever all of his minor league career and the last few seasons has been groomed to close. However, he’s also struggled to find his way in the Majors and last season was by and large a disaster at every level. He has a 5.47 ERA and 1.87 WHIP over 25 career MLB innings.

This spring started well, but turned disastrous over the weekend as he was pounded for four runs over 2/3rds of an inning of work on Sunday. A spotless ERA jumped to 6.35 and his WHIP this spring went to 1.59 over 5.2 innings this spring.

The former third round pick does still have an option, which makes it easy for the organization to send him back to Memphis for a third season. But this season is the last best opportunity for Tuivailala to settle in and put his name on the list of potential 2018 bullpen members. And that list is already stacked.

John Gant. John Gant may be another guy who can put his name in the mix as well. Gant was acquired from the Braves in the Jaime Garcia trade and brought along his spot on the 40 man roster. Gant pitched 50 innings for the Braves last season, posting a 4.86 ERA on a 1.50 WHIP. He also threw 56 innings for the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate last year, posting a 4.18 ERA on a 1.43 WHIP. He was versatile for the Braves, starting 17 games and making 15 relief appearances.

He has had a good spring, posting a 1.13 ERA and 0.38 WHIP over 8 innings of work. His latest appearance came on Saturday against his former team where he started the game and threw three perfect innings with three strikeouts.

Gant would have a leg up if his three closest competitors for this role didn’t already have spots on the 40 man roster. I expect that he’ll begin the season with Memphis in their rotation, but if he pitches well, could be the first guy in line if and when one of the big league starters goes down.

Jordan Schafer. A fifth guy on this list was supposed to be Jordan Schafer. However, given this week’s news that he will be undergoing either Tommy John surgery or UCL reconstruction, the Jordan Schafer experiment seems to have come to an end, at least for this year.