Cards cut roster to 55; Gomber, Gonzales, Alcantara among those -

Cards cut roster to 55; Gomber, Gonzales, Alcantara among those trimmed

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JUPITER, Fl. ( -- Spring slimming began Monday in Cardinal camp, with 11 players being cut to trim the total to 55.

Pitchers Austin Gomber, Sandy Alcantara, Jack Flaherty, Daniel Poncedeleon, Robby Rowland and Marco Gonzales were sent to minor league camp. Marco Gonzales’ departure is notable as the move uses up his final option and makes next spring a critical watermark for the lefty. He he does not make the 25-man roster out of next spring, he would have to clear waivers before being sent down.

READ: Rate of return: After being stopped for months, Gonzales remembering to crawl before he runs

The team sent him out to begin rehab work as he marches toward a comeback, as the available innings in major league camp begin to dwindle as the roster tightens. Opportunities for consistent outings are much more plentiful in the minors in mid-March. The Cardinals haven’t forgotten the excitement of Gonzales’ major league work in 2014. As the lefty nears game action, the club will be watching closely to see if there’s a fit on the 25-man roster when he is ready.

“He was a guy I kept trying to run out there in the playoffs just two years ago against the Giants out of the pen. A guy we called up to start for us, before that. So it’s going to be health, then once he gets healthy, how well he’s going to be able to execute is pitches,” manager Mike Matheny said.

Austin Gomber made quite the impression this spring. The big lefty was invited to major league camp in 2016 after splitting Pitcher of the Year honors with Alex Reyes in the previous season. After injury disrupted a portion of his 2016 season in Palm Beach (he finished 6-8 with a 2.93 ERA), Gomber impressed in his seven Arizona Fall League starts.

In 33.2 innings, the 23-year-old struck out 33, allowing just eight earned runs (2.14 ERA). He finished with a 5-1 record and the attention of the major league coaching staff.

“As he sat there I was telling him, ‘You came in here a year ago as one of the guys we just knew about, but we took you pretty serious this year,’” Matheny said of their conversation Monday. “With what he did in the season and what he did in the fall league, we really wanted to put him to the test. You could see him filling in in a lot of roles.”

Sandy Alcantara, another name at the top of Cardinal fans’ minds, also made a mark. Matheny said the lanky flamethrower was “as advertised.”

“He had one outing where I think he was trying to overthrow, but other than that, he was just lights out,” the manager said.

The 21-year-old was roughed up in his first outing, allowing five hits and a handful of runs. After he backed off the gas and allowed his pitches room to run, he tightened up the box score considerably. His secondary offerings are still in development, but his physical progress in the offseason has the organization optimistic about his ability to ascend this season.

READ: Sandy Alcantara camp to camp bigger, stronger and with better pitches

“He really looks like he went from boy to man. I think his physical presence is something that’s eye-popping,” General Manager John Mozeliak said early this spring.

The GM likened the physical jump to the one Adam Wainwright made early in his career, one that put him in position to reach the majors more quickly.

Catchers Jeremy Martinez, Dennis Ortega and Andrew Knizner were also sent to minor league camp, as were infielders Eliezer Alvarez and Edmundo Sosa.

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