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Gonzales' season ends with little fanfare

Key component of Cards' playoff bullpen last year limited by shoulder injury in '15

ST. LOUIS -- One of the final players cut from Major League camp this spring, Marco Gonzales headed for Triple-A Memphis in early April anticipating his stay would be short. The Cardinals believed the same.

But a year after starting five Major League games and playing a critical role in the postseason bullpen, Gonzales' 2015 ended quietly with one final Triple-A start Sunday and then a departure to his offseason home following Memphis' season finale a day later. A pitcher everyone thought would make great contributions this season instead appeared in just one big league game as the Cardinals opted not to recall him as a September addition.

"I think more than anything else is him realizing as well as we realize that this was a tough year for him," manager Mike Matheny said. "The shoulder injury is one that is as difficult as any to completely rebound from and to have that crisp feel for all of his pitches. We've seen hints of what he's going to be, and we have very high expectations of how he's going to progress. But that's a setback.

"So to keep trying to push him right now, maybe it's best to [let him] just go and work on strength and [take] time to rest and start over… and for him to just work on things without having to be in the middle of a pennant chase."

Gonzales' lone appearance for the Cardinals came Sept. 1, when he lasted just 2 2/3 innings in a spot start. Afterward, he was optioned back to Triple-A.

Two separate shutdowns due to a shoulder impingement limited Gonzales to 80 2/3 innings over 18 Minor League starts. Fourteen of those outings came with Memphis, where Gonzales posted a 5.45 ERA and a 1-5 record while striking out 51 and walking 24. It was hardly the impact the Cardinals thought would be made from a lefty who entered Spring Training vying for a big league rotation spot.

And it's why the club didn't see a fit for him down the stretch.

"We know that this kid can handle [pitching in big games]," Matheny said. "We threw him right into the mix last year, and I thought he responded just as good as anybody [could]. But to push him right now when he's been compromised for most of the season, I don't think is fair."

Matheny said the Cardinals are still scripting Gonzales' offseason plan and how much throwing it might entail. The only player the club did call up from Memphis on Tuesday was right-hander Sam Tuivailala.

Worth noting

• For a second straight day, Kolten Wong was out of the starting lineup due to tightness in his left calf. Matheny described the issue as "a day-to-day thing." Wong's middle infield partner, Jhonny Peralta, also sat, though his absence was preplanned in an effort to build in some rest.

• Though eager to come off the 15-day disabled list, Matt Belisle, it appears, will throw once more on the side. Matheny indicated that Belisle could throw another simulated game or join one of the team's affiliates to appear in a Minor League postseason game. Belisle has been sidelined with right elbow inflammation since June 26.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for and listen to her podcast.
Read More: St. Louis Cardinals, Marco Gonzales