ST. LOUIS -- The next high-octane fastball coming out of the Cardinal bullpen may come from a another converted infielder. First it was Trevor Rosentha, then Carlos Martinez. Now, make way for Sam Tuivailala.
The 22-year-old was drafted as a shortstop out of high school in California, but after a couple trying seasons as a hitter, he was put on the mound to try out his strong arm in hopes of a plus heater. Success quickly followed.
In three minor league seasons (2012-2014), Tuivailala struck out 170 batters in just 108 innings. That led to a brief Major League promotion past September before heading to the Arizona Fall League; an invitation-only league in which he pitched extremely well.?
"Going into [the AFL] I really had a plan of working on my mechanics and trying to get my offspeed [pitches] to where I wanted them be," Tuivailala said Saturday. "Toward the end of the Fall League, that's where I really felt comfortable and confident and I ended on a good note."
He finished with two earned runs over 14 innings, fanning 13.
His next stop is Florida and a chance to win a spot on the Opening Day roster. He will have to impress, as Rosenthal, Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle and Seth Maness are entrenched on the team as right-handers. Randy Choate will be one of the lefties.
Two spots remain with one certainly being a lefty (Marco Gonzales, Kevin Siegrist and Sam Freeman are all in competition there). It's up to Tuivailala to convince the front office to keep a fifth righty as opposed to three lefties.
Right now, he's not thinking about whether he'll be in St. Louis or Memphis come April.
"I'm going to do whatever they want me to do. I'll do whatever it takes to make the team but going into spring training I'm just going to compete at my highest level the focus is going to be through the roof," Tuivailala said.