Former Wabash Valley College star Keith Butler is still one of four pitchers vying for the last spot in the St. Louis bullpen as the Cardinals head north to play their Triple-A affiliate Memphis tonight (Friday).
But the final decision over which hurler to keep is expected by the end of the day.
The Cards final exhibition game of the spring is tonight at 6:35 p.m. and the relievers who do not make the 25-man roster will stay in Memphis and open the season in Triple-A.
Butler, a righthander, opened last season in Memphis after spending 2012 in AA. He was called up twice by the Cardinals last year, appearing in 16 games.
Butler, 25, isn’t the only one sweating it out. He has been in a bullpen battle with Jorge Rondon and Scott McGregor all spring. The Cardinals, apparently not happy with what they had seen out of the three, then signed David Aardsma to a minor league contract Wednesday.
Aardsma, though, failed to impress Thursday when he gave up three runs in only one-third of an inning in the Cardinals 6-4 loss to Florida.
McGregor did not look good either, allowing 5 Marlin runs.
Butler shined, however, striking out Florida’s Giancarlo Stanton in the sixth inning. That was the only batter he faced.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny told MLB.com: “We’re trying to see who fits best and let them continue to show what they’ve got.”
Starter Michael Wacha looked solid as well, with six strikeouts over five innings. He allowed one run on four hits.
Whoever claims the last bullpen spot may enjoy just a short stay in St. Louis. Two Redbird hurlers, Jaime Garcia and closer Jason Motte, will begin the season on the disabled list, remaining in Florida for their rehab work.
Garcia, with bursitis in his left shoulder, won’t be available until May at the earliest, according to reports. Motte, the closer, could be ready sooner, perhaps bwy the end of April.
St. Louis opens the season Monday in a 3:10 p.m. game at Cincinnati.