September 9, 2014.
That was the date MLB was introduced to a young man by the name of Sam Tuivailala. A kid who started the year all the way down in Palm Beach but had found some consistency in his pitching and now was making his first appearance in the Bigs. Someone who was described to have a lightning quick arm with a mid 90s fastball.
Well the hype was short lived. It was the top of the ninth inning, the Cardinals were down 7-4 to the Reds and were hoping for a ninth inning comeback. Tuivailala’s debut didn’t necessarily help matters.
The first batter he faced reached base with a single. He managed a popout with his next batter but walked the next. The next batter struck out and the nerves started settling. That was until he surrendered two straight singles, the last being a two RBI single which would end his night.
His first career appearance, 2/3rd innings giving up three hits and two runs, not the way you want to start a career, but nothing he hasn’t faced before.
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The difference between now and then is tremendous. In less than a year Tuivailala has seemed to make a complete flip. Despite being sent down yesterday, whether it’s been in Memphis or in St. Louis, he’s stayed pretty consistent with good numbers all year.
In the Bigs, he holds an 0-1 record, but that’s with a 1.80 ERA and nine strikeouts in just ten innings pitched. In Memphis he has been nothing but stellar, a 3-0 record with a 1.74 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 31 innings.
But what’s so special about Sam Tuivailala? Everybody posts good numbers, why is this different? To answer that question you have to see how far he’s come in such a short amount of time.
In 2012, Sam posted a 4.15 ERA in 11 appearances with the Johnson City Cardinals. While the runs were up, he struck out 23 in just 13 innings.
Tuivailala would spend 2013 with the Peoria Chiefs. Again he had good strikeout numbers, 50 strikeouts in just 35 1/3rd innings, but he just kept giving up runs. He would finish the season with an 0-3 record and a 5.35 ERA.
It was in 2014 where he started to turn things around. Starting the year in Palm Beach, he had an 0-1 record with a 3.58 ERA, but his fastball was insane. He was able to post 64 strikeouts while pitching just 37 2/3rd innings, which was good enough to earn him a call up to Springfield.
In Springfield he excelled, posting a 2-1 record with a 2.57 ERA, 30 strikeouts in 21 innings, and finally looked to be comfortable on the mound. Comfortable enough he would receive a call up to Memphis where he would only appear in two games before getting the call to the Bigs.
The Majors proved to perhaps be too big a step at that stage in his career, considering he only pitched an inning with five hits and four runs in his two appearances. But the improvements he had made were tremendous.
Now we come to 2015, without a doubt the best season Tuivailala has had. His presence on the mound, the continuing velocity of his fastball, and his overall comfort level while pitching are all to thank for this year’s campaign.
Where Sam Tuivailala can go with his career is all up to him. He no doubt has the potential to be a multi time All Star, that’s not jumping the gun either. Look at where he was just a year and a half ago, Palm Beach still looking to find his command, and look at where he is now.
With the phenomenal farm system that the Cardinals have, Tuivailala just adds to that. He’s made great improvements to his game at such a young age and he will continue to do so as his career progresses. If you don’t believe that, take this fact in. On October 19th of this year, he turns just 23 years old.