ST. LOUIS -- Needing to open up a roster spot for Tuesday night's starter, Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals optioned reliever Sam Tuivailala to Triple-A before the club's game against the Reds.
Tuivailala was squeezed out of a roster spot not due to performance, but rather as a result of an innings logjam. With Steve Cishek joining the club over the weekend and Jordan Walden nearing his return, the Cardinals were running out of opportunities for Tuivailala. And with the 22-year-old still developing a new pitch and fine-tuning command of his others, the Cardinals prioritized placing him where he could pitch.
"Right now, we would hate to have him sit back here where he's behind [Trevor Rosenthal], [Kevin Siegrist], Cishek, [Seth Maness], potentially a Walden, and not getting the opportunity to get better," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's done a nice job, is very much improved, but still has some work to do."
Tuivailala, in his third stint with the Major League club this season, made a strong impression. He pitched seven times, didn't allow a run and scattered three hits and four walks while striking out six. He continued to showcase a new cut fastball, too, a pitch that the Cardinals urged him to start throwing earlier this year.
Tuivailala ran with the suggestion and has enjoyed some early success with the repertoire addition. The Cardinals' hope is that Tuivailala will add some velocity to the cutter so it doesn't vary so much from the four-seam fastball he throws in the high-90s.
"He's recently developed into the kind of pitcher that's using the cutter more, using that kind of as the staple of his game, and that really comes with feel and repetition," Matheny said. "I think to not have him on the mound consistently is probably doing a him a disservice. I think we all noticed it was a different style of pitching when he came back this time, and I think it was a result of him incorporating the cutter and still having that 99-100 [mph fastball] when he can use it. It's almost re-thinking how you can use his stuff, and he's done a nice job making the transition."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.