NEW YORK -- Needing to open a spot on the 25-man roster for left-hander Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals optioned reliever Sam Tuivailala to Triple-A Memphis prior to Thursday's series finale at Citi Field. The move still leaves St. Louis with an eight-man bullpen.
Tuivailala, the 11th-ranked prospect in the Cardinals' farm system, joined the club on Sunday to help provide extra coverage in the 'pen, and he made two appearances against the Mets. He shouldered the loss on Monday after walking the first two batters he faced to open the 14th, but he returned to the mound the next night and pitched a scoreless frame. Tuivailala debuted a new cutter in that outing.
"He needed to go back and continue to work on what he finished here the other day," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think that was as good of an assignment as you could have as far as how things went the first night and then how they corrected the second night. It's exciting for us to watch, too, how it all comes together. An arm like that with a kid who can figure out how to make pitches and then add some things to the arsenal that could help him, he could be a big piece to our puzzle."
Tuivailala heads to Memphis with a clear assignment: throw the cutter a lot, but also prioritize continued development of the curveball and changeup.
Garcia comes off the 15-day disabled list to make his first start in 11 months. He underwent season-ending surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome last summer and then had to open 2015 on the DL after a late setback in spring. The Cardinals had him make two Minor League rehab starts before clearing him to return.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.