Eduardo Sanchez, the St. Louis Cardinals' top relief prospect and briefly their closer in the hectic 2011 season, will begin the season in AAA Memphis according to reports from Fox Sports Midwest's BJ Rains. Sanchez was outstanding in limited time last year—in 30 innings he struck out 35 batters, for a 1.80 ERA—but a shoulder injury knocked him out for much of the season's second-half, and after a spotty spring training the Cardinals would apparently rather start him off slowly.
Eduardo Sanchez optioned to Triple-A Memphis, pretty much ending the bullpen competition.— B.J. Rains (@BJRains) March 25, 2012
The relievers who benefit from this surprising move are Mitchell Boggs—another 2011 closer—who seemed like a possible odd-man-out after drifting to the back of the bullpen by the end of the season, and Scott Linebrink, the veteran right-hander who seemed like a long-shot earlier in the spring.
Sanchez is unlikely to be long for Memphis, if he's healthy; any right-hander who ends up in the back of the bullpen, or on a brief disabled list stint, is likely to get Wally Pipped for good by Sanchez's outstanding slider.