Cardinals promote three in final round of callups

Cardinals promote three in final round of callups

CINCINNATI -- As a reward for their standout seasons and in an effort to fortify the roster for the final three weeks, the Cardinals promoted infielder Greg Garcia, outfielder Tommy Pham and right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailala from Triple-A as part of the organization's final round of September callups on Monday.

Garcia returns for a third stint on the Major League roster, while Pham and Tuivailala will be making their Major League debuts. In order to add the two onto the club's 40-man roster -- which the Cardinals would have had to do by the end of November to protect Pham and Tuivailala from the Rule 5 Draft -- the club designated catcher Audry Perez and outfielder Rafael Ortega for assignment.

Having already plucked several players from the Triple-A roster earlier this month, the Cardinals wanted to wait until Memphis' season ended before making these last roster moves. All three players learned of the promotion on Saturday, after Memphis was knocked out of the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

"It's definitely indescribable," Tuivailala said.

"It's a rewarding experience," Pham said. "I didn't feel like I had to get promoted, but it rewards me for the season I had. As the year was going on, I started to improve and felt like it was a possibility."

Pham and Tuivailala have taken various paths here, though both were drafted out of high school as shortstops. Tuivailala, a third-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, caught the organization's attention with his arm strength and started pitching in 2012. Since then, the climb has been rapid.

This year alone, Tuivailala moved from Class A Advanced (29 appearances) to Double-A (17 appearances) to Triple-A (two appearances). Combined, he posted a 3.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and allowed one home run in 60 innings. Tuivailala, the team's No. 13-ranked prospect, also caught attention with his ability to hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun.

"I didn't think it would happen this fast, but I had a really good year, and I'm glad the hard work is paying off," said Tuivailala, who will wear No. 64. "I would say maybe when I hit the Double-A level and I started really finding out what type of pitcher I am. Toward the end of that season, going into the [Triple-A] playoffs, it was always in the back of my head [that I could be called up]."

Manager Mike Matheny hadn't forgotten what he saw of Tuivailala when the 21-year-old right-hander came over from Minor League camp and made an appearance against the Mets. Matheny agreed with a reporter who noted similarities between Tuivailala and Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, who made a similar impression and ascent in 2012.

"Big arms are going to get noticed," Matheny said. "[Throwing 100 mph] puts you on the radar if you know how to control it, have enough athleticism and have the capacity to know how to pitch. Sam was checking off those boxes. You're looking at a kid who hasn't pitched that much, so you see a lot of upside in him."

Pham, a 16th-round pick in 2006, converted to the outfield in '07 but had his climb stalled by several injuries. He entered the season with the challenge of finding a fit on a Triple-A team with three outfield prospects (Oscar Taveras, Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty), but Pham distinguished himself by taking advantage when the everyday playing opportunity arose in May.

Pham, 26, finished the season with a slash line of .324/.395/.491 and stole 20 bases in 22 attempts. In nine professional seasons, this was his first spent entirely in Triple-A.

"I definitely have a strong testament," said Pham, who will wear No. 60. "It does make it sweeter, but at the same time, just because you got here, you know there is still work to be done."

While Pham can give the Cardinals coverage at any of the outfield positions, Garcia boasts similar versatility in the infield. Garcia has two hits in 12 previous at-bats with St. Louis this season.

Worth noting
• ESPN announced that it has selected the Cardinals' regular-season home finale against the Reds on Sept. 21 as the network's Sunday Night Game of the Week. As a result, first pitch has been rescheduled for 7:07 pm CT.

• The Cardinals' short-season affiliate in State College (Pa.) sits one win away from capturing a New York-Penn League Championship after defeating the Tri-City ValleyCats, 2-0, in the first game of a best-of-three series on Sunday. Starter Trey Nielson (30th-round pick, 2013 Draft) threw six one-hit shutout innings in the longest start of his career. Luis Cruz and Alex De Leon delivered run-scoring extra-base hits for State College.

• Left fielder Matt Holliday returned to the lineup on Monday after missing a game due to stiffness in his lower back.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.