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Gregerson to open season on disabled list

Leone, Lyons likely to share Cards' closer role; Mayers, Brebbia earn roster spots
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- Luke Gregerson's strained left hamstring will require him to begin the season on the disabled list, bringing clarity to the Cardinals' late-innings situation and setting the roster they'll bring to New York for Opening Day against the Mets.

Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons are expected to receive the bulk of closing opportunities in the absence of Gregerson, who entered camp the favorite to win the job after signing a two-year deal this winter. Bud Norris and the ascendant Mike Mayers could also factor in.

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Luke Gregerson's strained left hamstring will require him to begin the season on the disabled list, bringing clarity to the Cardinals' late-innings situation and setting the roster they'll bring to New York for Opening Day against the Mets.

Dominic Leone and Tyler Lyons are expected to receive the bulk of closing opportunities in the absence of Gregerson, who entered camp the favorite to win the job after signing a two-year deal this winter. Bud Norris and the ascendant Mike Mayers could also factor in.

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"There are going to be lots of suggestions," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Disabling Gregerson defogs the club picture on who will head north. With Gregerson in the fold, the final spot in the Cardinals' eight-man bullpen came down to right-handers Mayers and John Brebbia. Now there will be room for both, along with Matt Bowman, Sam Tuivailala, Brett Cecil, Norris, Leone and Lyons. Leone notched a scoreless ninth inning in the Cards' 8-7 win over the Mets on Saturday.

Brebbia and Mayers were informed they made the team Saturday. Mayers received the news from Matheny after a scoreless first inning, which capped his sizzling spring. The hard-throwing righty threw 12 scoreless innings in Grapefruit League play, showcasing a high-90s fastball and wipeout slider in the club's first look at him as a full-time reliever.

"The coolest part was the reaction from all the guys," said Mayers. "I got hugs from everybody."

Matheny fought public pressure all spring to name Gregerson -- or anyone else -- the closer, instead opting to let a cadre of late-innings options battle for the role throughout the Grapefruit League season. It ended up being a competition that Gregerson hardly participated in.

The Cardinals chose to ease the veteran righty into action following a heavy workload in 2017. Then he missed 10 days due to an oblique injury before straining his hamstring while conditioning this week. Gregerson managed to make just three Grapefruit League appearances in between.

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"We felt he wasn't going to be ready for the start of the season," Matheny said. "Obviously, he's frustrated. He anticipated breaking camp with us."

Leone saw the ninth inning most often this spring, but the Cardinals still consider their late-inning situation fluid, at least for now. The organization prefers a more traditional pecking order to take shape over time.

"We're going to have to be thinking our way through how the back-end works," Matheny said. "It could be more matchup-based than anything else."

That'll mean deploying the right-handed Leone and left-handed Lyons, predominately, on different days, depending on the situation. Norris, who saved 19 games last year for the Angels, and Mayers could elbow themselves into the ninth inning if their performance dictates it.

"He's one of the guys I'd say was the most improved. To quote our catchers, it's different stuff than he had before," Matheny said of Mayers. "All things are pointing to this being where he should be."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals, Luke Gregerson