Ponce de Leon was optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports.
The move is not surprising, as Ponce de Leon had been mostly ruled out of the rotation conversation earlier in March. The 27-year-old could return at some point this season and look to build on the 2.73 ERA he recorded in his 33-inning debut last year.
Ponce De Leon endured a rocky outing against the Astros on Friday, allowing three earned runs across four innings. However, manager Mike Shildt confirmed Saturday that Ponce De Leon will make his next scheduled spring start, giving him one final chance to make his case for a job that still appears likely to go to either Dakota Hudson or John Gant. Shildt is hoping that Ponce De Leon's next appearance will result in a much more even performance than the one the 27-year-old put together against Houston. "It was a long inning, short inning, longer inning, shorter inning," Shildt said. "We want to get more shorter innings, more consistency controlling counts. His stuff's more than fine, obviously."
Either John Gant or Dakota Hudson will win the fifth starter's spot, while Carlos Martinez (shoulder) could join the rotation in May or June. Considering Ponce de Leon has minor-league options remaining, this likely means he is ticketed for the Triple-A rotation to start the season.
Ponce de Leon, who allowed three earned runs on four hits over three innings in a 10-8 Grapefruit League loss to the Mets on Sunday, worked on developing his curveball this winter after using it sparingly last season, Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports.
The promising right-hander used the curve occasionally in the minors, but he essentially kept it in mothballs during his 2018 big-league stint. Ponce de Leon only threw 18 curveballs across his 581 major-league offerings, but he focused on developing it this winter in an effort to enhance an arsenal that already includes a four-seam fastball, changeup and cutter. Ponce de Leon focused more on fastball command during his Sunday outing against the Mets, however, and his use of the power pitch helped lead to three strikeouts. Ponce de Leon is one of several candidates for the Cardinals' open rotation spot after generating a solid 2.73 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 31:13 K:BB across 33.0 innings over 11 appearances (four starts).
Poncedeleon will work out of the bullpen moving forward, Joe Trezza of MLB.com reports.
With an off day Thursday, the Cardinals will move to a four-man rotation until Adam Wainwright (elbow) makes his return to the rotation next Monday against the Pirates. As a result, Poncedeleon and Luke Weaver will be shifted back to the bullpen for the final month of the season, though both will remain options to start down the stretch should an opportunity arise. The 26-year-old owns a 3.38 ERA across 10.2 innings of relief this season (five appearances).
|9/30/2018 vs Chicago|
|Last 7 Games|
|Complete Game Log|
| 24 || 25 || 26 || 27 || 28 || 29 || 30
| 31 || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6
|More Pitching Stats|
|Minor League Pitching Stats|
|2014||ASX-State College Spikes||3||3||2.44||12||10||0||0||0||44.1||38||13||12||0||1||14||52|
|2015||AFA-Palm Beach Cardinals||5||0||1.49||7||6||0||0||0||42.1||29||9||7||1||2||8||25|