Late Saturday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals thinned their Major League camp population to 42 when they sent six players to minor league camp, all pitchers. None had been expected to make the major league roster out of camp.
Two 40-man roster players, left-handed reliever Nick Greenwood and right-hander Sam Tuivailala, have been optioned to Triple-A Memphis. Non-roster invitees Tim Cooney, Dean Kiekhefer, Zach Petrick and Miguel Socolovich were reassigned to the Memphis roster and will join the others in minor league camp.
Cooney and Petrick are expected to open in the Triple-A rotation with Kiekhefer and Socolovoch working out of the Redbirds bullpen. Cooney and Kiekhefer are lefties and Petrick and Socolovich are right-handers. All have previous Triple-A experience, though free agent signee Socolovich is new to the Cardinals organization.
These moves reduce the 40-man roster population in Major League camp to 34 and non-roster invitees to eight as the team moves toward its opening day limit of 25.
Greenwood first joined the Cardinals in 2010 as part of the Jake Westbrook-Ryan Ludwick trade. Not expected to be in the St. Louis picture last season, the 27-year-old was called upon as injuries hit the left-handed relief corps. Working as a long man, Greenwood threw 36 innings over 19 games in 2014, including one spot start on the final day of the season, subbing for Adam Wainwright. Greenwood logged a 4.75 ERA over all.
This spring, Greenwood yielded four runs, three earned, in four innings of work. He struck out two and walked one.
Tuivailala was one of the fastest risers in the Cardinals system last season. The converted infielder who can reach the upper 90’s with his fastball began 2014 at A-Advanced Palm Beach. Before the season was out, he not only made his MLB debut, he was called upon to pitch in the Arizona Fall League prospect showcase.
In a small size oddity, the 22-year-old had a spring training line almost identical to Greenwood, having allowed four runs, three earned, in four frames. Tuivailala walked two and struck out just one opposing batter.
Ranked number eight among Cardinals minor leaguers in The Cardinal Nation top 40 prospect list for 2015, Tuivailala should play an important role in the late innings for the Redbirds this season and if he continues to progress, be one of the first right-handers called up when help is needed.
After Marco Gonzales, Cooney appears to be the next minor league pitcher in the rotation pecking order. However, he has yet to be added to the 40-man roster so may have to wait until later in the season to make his MLB debut. Tyler Lyons could also be tried again ahead of Cooney in the interim depending on how they perform for Memphis in 2015
Cooney, ranked seventh on the 2015 TCN top 40, was impressive in camp. The 24-year-old allowed just one run in eight innings on four hits. Cooney struck out five batters and walked none.
Petrick, 25, was the Cardinals Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2013. After a strong beginning to spring camp, Petrick ended up being charged with four earned runs in 7 1/3 innings on five hits and two walks. He is TCN’s 29th-ranked Cardinals prospect and should open 2015 in the back end of Memphis’ rotation.
Kiekhefer, 25, is a strikethrower. The lefty excelled at Memphis last season, posting a 2.54 ERA in 40 appearances after his promotion from Springfield. In limited duty this spring, Kiekhefer allowed one run on three hits and no walks in 3 2/3 innings.
With left-handed reliever Greenwood ahead of him and with a spot on the 40-man roster he does not yet have, Kiekhefer will have to bide his time. However, he could make his MLB debut later this season.
Socolovich, 28, made his MLB introductions with the 2012 Orioles and Cubs, and joined the Cardinals as a free agent in November after pitching in the Mets system last season. In 4 1/3 innings in spring camp, the Venezuelan native allowed three runs, all unearned, on six hits and four walks. Socolovich struck out five.
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