ST. LOUIS -- In order to clear a spot on the 25-man roster for newly acquired reliever Steve Cishek and pave the way for Jaime Garcia's return to the rotation, the Cardinals optioned lefty Tim Cooney to Triple-A Memphis on Saturday. The move came a day after Cooney earned his first Major League win.
Cooney, 24, had the best start of his young career in Friday's 4-2 victory over the Braves. He threw a career-high seven innings and allowed two runs while walking none and striking out five. He posted a 2.48 ERA in five starts this month while filling in for an injured Garcia.
Cooney's time with the Cardinals ends for now, though, with the club's decision to have Garcia forgo a second rehab start.
"It's part of being a young player," manager Mike Matheny said. "He gets it. He sees the numbers. He gets the fact that when Jaime is right, he's going to be in there. But we've been very honest with [Cooney] that he did nothing but impress us."
Garcia will pitch against the Reds next week, likely on Tuesday. That would push John Lackey's next start back a day to give him an extra bit of rest.
"[We] have been very clear that when he's right and he's healthy, we want him on the mound," Matheny said of Garcia. "He's got the capability of doing some pretty impressive things every time he's on the mound. We're going to keep pushing it as much as he can, and most of it came back to the fact that he felt very good after his start, and the results were there, the velocity was there. Let's go."
Garcia was strong in a 58-pitch rehab start with low Class A Peoria on Thursday. He did not allow a hit over five innings and returned to St. Louis on Friday hopeful that he would not have to make one more Minor League tuneup before coming off the disabled list.
Garcia, who has been sidelined since June 24 with a left groin strain, will be on a loose pitch count in his next start.
The Cardinals will have to make another roster move when activating Garcia next week, but for now they will carry eight relievers in the bullpen. Cishek, who was acquired from the Marlins on Friday, was in uniform for Saturday's game, wearing No. 28.