Lyons optioned so he can be stretched out

Lyons optioned so he can be stretched out

JUPITER, Fla. -- Having determined that Tyler Lyons will be more valuable right now as a potential spot starter than as a reliever in the big league bullpen, the Cardinals optioned the left-hander to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday. With the move, the Cards now have 40 players remaining in Major League Spring Training.

Though Lyons was initially named as one of the pitchers competing for a rotation spot, it became clear early in Grapefruit League play that the Cardinals were auditioning him for a bullpen role. He would have offered the club length out of the 'pen, but Lyons didn't exactly stand out this spring.

Lyons gave up 13 earned runs in eight innings and struggled with his command. By sending him to Minor League camp now, there is still plenty of time for him to get stretched out so he is ready to open the season in Memphis' rotation. Lyons did not pitch more than two innings in any of his six spring appearances.

"He's got an above-average slider and curveball. Both of those make me believe that he could be effective out of the 'pen," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think all the talk has been -- and rightfully so -- that you have the ability to have a long guy, too, down there is always nice. But I think long term, with the mix of pitches that he has -- the sinker, the good changeup, the two plus breaking balls -- he profiles as a starter and needs to continue to get stretched out as so."

The Cards need to have Major League-ready starting depth in Memphis, too, because of their plans to move one of their starters into a bullpen role to start the season. Whichever of the six remaining starters in camp does not land in the rotation is poised to "play a big role in our bullpen," Matheny said. That's likely to be either Joe Kelly or Carlos Martinez.

Lyons made 12 appearances (eight starts) for the Cardinals last season and posted a 4.75 ERA.

"He's going to be in that mix, because he's going to be down there," Matheny said, when asked if Lyons would be positioned as the first starter called up should there be a need. "He's somebody that we know. But it's going to be whoever is throwing the ball best. That's all there is to it."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.