Ottavino went from a long-shot to one of the last pitchers in camp, and may have established himself as the Cardinals' sixth starter when and if something happens to a member of the St. Louis rotation. Few, if any, Cardinals helped themselves as much as Ottavino did this spring. So he packed with a smile, and with the confidence that it may not be long before he's back in a Major League clubhouse.
"Everything I set out to do, pretty much, I did," Ottavino said. "I have no regrets or anything. They said I pitched well enough to where they wouldn't hesitate if they needed somebody, which is all I really wanted to hear."
Ottavino's option likely sets the Cardinals' pitching staff. Fourteen pitchers remain in camp, but Ottavino's fate was really the only remaining question. P.J. Walters has scarcely pitched and is bound for Triple-A Memphis. Rich Hill is nearly as certain to be sent out before camp is over, leaving the 12 pitchers who will be on the Major League roster.
The Cardinals have yet to commit to a fifth starter, but optioning Ottavino further cements what was already clear: Jaime Garcia will get that job, while Kyle McClellan occupies the last vacant bullpen job. Also in the rotation will be Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Brad Penny and Kyle Lohse. Along with McClellan in the bullpen will be Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Blake Hawksworth, Trever Miller and Dennys Reyes.
After being considered as an option in relief for the Cardinals, Ottavino will start for Memphis. That allows him to be ready for anything if the big club needs him, be it a starting role or a bullpen job.
"That keeps all of the options open," manager Tony La Russa said. "He can be a starter in the big leagues."
A former first-round Draft pick, Ottavino made eight appearances this spring, allowing three earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. He struck out eight against six walks and eight hits.
"I just think that I've been getting better every day from two years ago, but sometimes it's hard to see," he said. "I feel like I'm back to pitching."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.