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It’s now or never for Tuivailala and Weaver as injuries deplete St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals reliever Sam Tuivailala has major league stuff. But he’s never been able to stick with the big league club because of inconsistency.

With closer Trevor Rosenthal on the disabled list and nowhere else to turn, it may be now or never for a guy who, at one point, was considered to be Rosey’s heir apparent.

Tuivailala made it interesting Thursday night, loading the bases with Pittsburgh Pirates before he was finally able to complete a shutout inning. But, on the bright side, he kept his composure and was able to get his feet beneath him.

Seung-hwan Oh took over as closer last year but appeared to lose a little something over the winter. Matt Bowman has been used and abused by manager Mike Matheny. Besides having too many miles on his odometer this season, Bowman isn’t a candidate to be a closer because, if he was moved, the Redbirds would lose their middle innings fireman and would have to find someone else to fill the hole they just created to fill another. John Brebbia is intriguing because he was once a guy who figured as a future closer. But he’s struggled to get established in the big leagues because of command issues. So, I don’t know if it’s the wisest idea to heap additional pressure on him.

If Rosenthal has torn ligaments in his pitching elbow, we may have seen the last of him in a St. Louis uniform. With one year of control left in the hands of the Cardinals, I doubt St. Louis would pay him eight figures to sit out almost the entirety of 2018 as he tries to recover. So the time is now for Tuivailala to prove if he’s a real candidate as a bullpen fixture — or if the front office needs to look outside of the organization for more pitching help.

Speaking of the pitching staff, former ace Adam Wainwright did nothing Thursday to soothe Cardinals fans freaked out by his stunning loss of velocity.

Wainwright was limited to about 84 MPH with his fastball. Unlike a young Braves lineup that was befuddled by pitches that came in slow and slower in Wainwright’s last start, Pittsburgh was ready for the lanky right-hander’s depleted arsenal and teed off on it. He gave up seven hits and five earned runs in three innings to see his earned run average balloon to 5.12. Wainwright walked one but was unable to strike out a single person, solidifying my hunch that he’s going to hang it up at the end of the 2017 season.

It appears that St. Louis may be forced to look for young help in the rotation with Luke Weaver likely to be summoned if Wainwright has to go on the disabled list. But, while Weaver could fill one vacancy, what happens if Mike Leake continues to stink? It’s very difficult to demote him to the bullpen with no logical choice to take his place in the rotation. Tyler Lyons could return to starting. Or the Cardinals could roll the dice by calling a young prospect like Dakota Hudson up to the majors.

Fortunately for the Redbirds, they aren’t the only team in the National League Central Division race beat up with injuries.

The Chicago Cubs lost their star catcher Wilson Contreras to an injury. And on Thursday night, expensive starting pitcher Jon Lester gave up nine runs on seven hits and a walk in an inning and two-thirds during a wild contest Thursday against the Cincinnati Reds before leaving with a sore arm.

It’s just that time of year when injuries start to take their toll. While the Cardinals lack star power, they have the advantage of depth. It’s time to find out if some of their young players can perform under pressure. Not only is it important for this season. But it’s important to know as the front office works on constructing the roster for next year.

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