ST. LOUIS -- Greg Holland's rough weekend in Pittsburgh exhausted the leeway the reliever had earned with his four previous appearances. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak said Tuesday that Cardinals did not anticipate using Holland in save opportunities in the immediate future, effectively handing closing duties back to Bud Norris.
"I don't think he'll be used in the ninth inning at this time," Mozeliak said of Holland.
Signed to a one-year, $14 million contract on Opening Day and coming off a third All-Star appearance, Holland's pedigree and contract status earned him considerable rope over the season's first month. But it's being tested after Holland relinquished a three-run lead in his first save chance Friday, then allowed another run in a low-leverage outing Sunday. In all, Holland has a 7.36 ERA in 10 appearances, over which he has more walks than strikeouts.
Though the club hopes Holland can improve at the big league level, Mozeliak left open the possibility of Holland requiring a Minor League assignment. Holland would need to approve such an assignment, given his six-plus years of Major League service time.
"I'm not feeling that's our next step at the moment, but I don't think anything is off the table when looking at how to solve a problem," Mozeliak said. "That said, this guy is confident. He believes he can do this."
Holland's ineffectiveness, the club believes, stems from his unique circumstances. Unsigned for the entirety of Spring Training, Holland was limited to just two appearances at Class A before debuting for the Cards on April 9. He walked four of the five hitters he faced that night and four more in four subsequent appearances, all in low-leverage spots. Holland strung together four scoreless outings prior to Friday's loss, at which point the club considered his issues resolved. He then allowed three runs (two earned) without recording an out Friday.
"When he gets ahead and puts hitters away, that's what we need to see happening," Mozeliak said.
Norris has been one of the most effective closers in baseball in Holland's place, recording a 2.03 ERA in 13 appearances. Norris is 5-for-5 in save chances.
Voit returns, Mayers optioned
With the schedule working to their advantage and a fresh arm already loaded in the bullpen, the Cardinals added a bat to their bench at the expense of a pitcher Tuesday. The club recalled first baseman/outfielder Luke Voit from Triple-A Memphis, optioning righty Mike Mayers in a corresponding move.
The addition of Voit gives the Cards a fifth bench player and reduces the number of bullpen arms to eight. Because of off-days, St. Louis doesn't technically need a fifth starter until Tuesday vs. the Twins. The club played Sunday with what was effectively a nine-man bullpen after swapping Saturday's starter Jack Flaherty for Austin Gomber.
"It didn't make sense with the off-days to carry nine relievers," Mozeliak said. "Voit gives us a first-base replacement if needed, and he also gives that bat off the bench."
Both Mozeliak and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny stressed Voit's ability to play first base, after a weekend in which Jose Martinez had defensive lapses there. Martinez made errors in consecutive losses to the Pirates, including a consequential one with Holland on the mound Friday. Martinez has been one of the club's best hitters but is relatively new to the position and ranks among the most limited first basemen in baseball.
Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko are also options at first base, though Carpenter is often lifted for a defensive replacement himself late in games.
"We're still trying to figure out defensively how we can improve," Matheny said. "Maybe [Voit] will free us up to make some moves."
Voit hit .246/.306/.430 over 124 plate appearances as a rookie in 2017, earning the bulk of his at-bats as a pinch-hitter.
The subtraction of Mayers makes the righty the fourth pitcher optioned to Memphis over the past five days, following John Brebbia, John Gant and Flaherty. Mayers most recently threw 41 pitches in 1 2/3 innings of relief in Saturday's 6-2 loss to the Pirates, his lone appearance after replacing Gant a day earlier. Gant was summoned to replace Brebbia, and both threw three innings of long relief in short stints with the club.
• On the disabled list with elbow inflammation, Adam Wainwright played catch Tuesday and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Wednesday. Mozeliak said Wainwright's return could come "sooner rather than later," and without a rehab assignment.
• Sam Tuivailala (strained left knee) is being stretched out at Triple-A Memphis while on a rehab assignment. The club hopes the righty can provide the type of length out of the bullpen that has required regular roster movement to find lately. He'll be asked to reach the 30-40 pitch plateau before returning to the big Cards. Tuivailala eclipsed 30 pitches in four of his 37 appearances last season.
• Left-hander Ryan Sherriff's third rehab appearance at Memphis will come without him wearing the shank meant to protect his broken left toe. He could return at some point this week.
• On the disabled list since the opening weekend of the season due to a shoulder strain, Brett Cecil is throwing at extended spring training. He could begin a rehab assignment by next week.