St. Louis Cardinals Trim Six Players from Spring Training Roster

Mar 20, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Dean Kiekhefer (60) delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Marlins defeated the Cardinals 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 20, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Dean Kiekhefer (60) delivers a pitch against the Miami Marlins during the game at Roger Dean Stadium. The Marlins defeated the Cardinals 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

With just four spring training games left, the St. Louis Cardinals sent four pitchers and two position players to minor-league camp after Sunday’s game.

With just four games remaining on the St. Louis Cardinals’ spring training schedule, they made another set of mass cuts on Sunday, which helps the club inch closer to setting its initial 25-man Opening Day roster. Lefthanded pitchers Tim Cooney and Dean Kiekhefer, righthanders Miguel Socolovich and Sam Tuivailala, and catcher Mike Ohlman were optioned to Triple-A Memphis, while first baseman David Washington was reassigned to minor-league camp.

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Cooney, Socolovich, and Tuivailala all saw big-league action for the Cardinals during 2015.

With the moves, the Cardinals have 34 players remaining in major-league camp, including pitchers Lance Lynn and Mitch Harris and shortstop Jhonny Peralta, all of whom are dealing with injuries and will be out for Opening Day. Righthanded reliever Jordan Walden, who will pitch again on Monday according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Derrick Goold, is the only remaining wild card, as he’s facing the possibility of a DL stint if he can’t escape the shoulder pain that has limited him over the past six days.

The demotion has to be especially frustrating for Socolovich, who had dominant numbers while with the Cardinals in 2015 and had a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP in seven innings this spring. Despite his proven big-league track record,  Socolovich may end up sitting in the minors while Rule 5 pick Matt Bowman, who has a 7.88 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in eight innings this spring, makes the Opening Day roster. No matter the case, though, Socolovich will probably end up back in St. Louis at some point this season as bullpen injuries occur.

Tuivailala, who is rivaled only by Trevor Rosenthal as the hardest thrower on the Cardinals’ 40-man roster, made major progress while in the big leagues last year, making nine straight scoreless appearances between May 19 and August 29. His stuff seemingly hasn’t been at its best this spring, though, as he’s given up seven hits and walked another seven through 6.1 innings. He gave up three earned runs over his last 2.1 spring innings and finished the exhibition schedule with a 4.26 ERA, 2.21 WHIP, and .280 opponent batting average. If he can recover from his spring struggles, he should be one of the Cardinals’ first call-ups in the event of a need for bullpen reinforcements.

Miguel Socolovich St. Louis Cardinals
Mar 21, 2016; Jupiter, FL, USA; St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Miguel Socolovich (63) warms up during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Roger Dean Stadium. The Red Sox defeated the Cardinals 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports /

Kiekhefer had a fantastic spring and could be the next man up if Kevin Siegrist gets hurt or Tyler Lyons falters this season. Over six spring appearances, Kiekhefer was unscored upon, struck out four batters, and walked just one.

Based on the success that he enjoyed as a major-leaguer last season (1-0, 3.16 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .241 OBA), one would think that Cooney deserves to be the Cardinals’ sixth starter this year in the event of an injury to a member of the rotation. With that said, the front office seems to be making an effort to give former first-rounder Marco Gonzales a chance this year, so Cooney might need two injuries in order to get another chance in the big leagues. It doesn’t help that Cooney was held back by shoulder soreness this spring and pitched in just two exhibition games.

Ohlman, a mountain of a man by catcher standards at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds, may have vaulted himself to third on the Cardinals’ catching depth chart this spring by hitting .333/.429/.416. Ohlman, ranked 29th among Cards prospects by, will be spending his first season in Triple-A this year and is expected to share time with veteran journeyman Eric Fryer.

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Washington, who hit an impressive .292/.433/.417 over 24 at-bats in his first big-league spring training, will likely be the starting first baseman at either Memphis or Double-A Springfield this season. His path to the big leagues isn’t necessarily clearer, considering that the Cardinals have Matt Holliday, Brandon Moss, and Matt Adams fighting over playing time at first, with Jedd Gyorko, Matt Carpenter, Brayan Pena, and Stephen Piscotty theoretically capable of stepping in if a catastrophic injury crisis were to occur. But with Washington, who has double-digit homers in his past three seasons, as well as Jonathan Rodriguez, who was sent down earlier in the spring, the Cardinals have some viable first base depth in the minors if they decide to move Adams, as has been speculated about in recent weeks.

With these moves, all of which were expected at some point this spring, there seem to be only two roster spots up for the taking. One is expected to go to a fifth bench player–either infielder Greg Garcia or a lefthanded-hitting outfielder, Jeremy Hazelbaker or Carlos Peguero–though the aforementioned Rule 5 pick Bowman might be able to sneak onto the roster as a 13th pitcher. If Walden begins the season on the DL, Bowman could also take that route to a big-league spot.

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Though they still seem to have little to no chance of making the team, the two most surprising players left in camp are definitely non-roster reliever Juan Gonzalez and infielder Jacob Wilson, who will presumably stick with the club through the duration of the spring schedule. While their lack of 40-man roster status hurts their chances of getting to the big leagues this season, it’s always a good sign when a player manages to make it through the entire spring after coming in as a non-roster invitee.