Gallegos remains the Cardinals' projected closer to open the season, but top ninth-inning option Jordan Hicks (elbow) is helped by the current shutdown the longer it extends, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Hicks has been projected for a mid-to-later-summer return all along after late-June 2019 Tommy John surgery. Heading into spring, Gallegos was considered a strong candidate to primarily handle closing duties in Hicks' stead until that point, but the further Opening Day is pushed back, the more the potential amount of missed regular-season time for Hicks shrinks. Following a rocky start to Grapefruit League play, Gallegos was trending up when spring training was suspended, posting four straight scoreless efforts before play was paused.
Gallegos was credited with his second save of spring in a Grapefruit League win over the Marlins on Thursday, firing a perfect ninth inning during which he recorded two strikeouts. Gallegos is a leading contender to serve as the Cardinals' closer whenever the 2020 regular season does begin, and Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes the right-hander has pitched the ninth inning in four of his six spring appearances. Pitching coach Mike Maddux credited the hard-throwing reliever for his resiliency after Thursday's game, noting Gallegos' first two Grapefruit League outings were "a little big rugged" but that the 28-year-old has bounced back well over his last three.
Gallegos was credited with a save in a Grapefruit League win over the Nationals on Saturday, allowing a hit over a scoreless ninth inning. He struck out one. The hard-throwing right-hander's spring got off to an inauspicious start Wednesday, as he allowed three runs on two hits and a walk over two-thirds of an inning versus the Marlins. Gallegos' resurgent effort Saturday was therefore particularly encouraging, especially considering a report by Anne Rogers of MLB.com indicating Gallegos' fastball-slider combination and impressive strikeout rate in 2019 could make him a leading candidate for the primary closer role during the first half of the season, at minimum, while Jordan Hicks (elbow) remains sidelined.
Gallegos will receive the opportunity to compete for the Cardinals' closer job in spring training, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The wide-open battle also includes John Brebbia, Alex Reyes and Ryan Helsley, among others, though any competition for the ninth-inning vacancy could come to a quick end if the Cardinals shift Carlos Martinez -- who is getting the opportunity to fight for a rotation spot -- back to the bullpen. If Martinez's shoulder can hold up to starting duty, however, Gallegos would probably represent the most alluring fantasy target in the St. Louis bullpen, though the ample reliable relief arms on hand could prompt manager Mike Shildt to take a committee approach to save situations. Gallegos notched only one save in 2019 but still had utility in mixed leagues thanks to his dazzling ratios (2.31 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 11.3 K/9).
Gallegos got the save against the Cubs on Thursday, tossing a scoreless inning without allowing a baserunner to close out a 5-4 extra-inning victory for the Cardinals. He struck out one and walked none. Gallegos entered the contest in the 10th inning after the Cardinals had blown a save and retaken the lead and managed to shut the door with a clean effort, picking up his first save of the season and third of his career. He's having a fantastic season, with a 2.07 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 92:15 K:BB across 69.2 innings, but Carlos Martinez is locked in as the Cardinals' closer and should be expected to get the bulk of the save chances through the rest of the season.
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