Which Cardinals are at risk of losing their roster spots when injured players return?

As the Cardinals get more reinforcements off the injured list, it will impact who they decide to keep on their 26-man roster.
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals
Baltimore Orioles v St. Louis Cardinals / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages
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When Riley O'Brien returns, Giovanny Gallegos and Kyle Leahy are at risk of losing their roster spot

For as awesome as the Cardinals' bullpen has been this season, it has also been subject to a number of injuries and setbacks related to those. Giovanny Gallegos just made his return from the injured list while Keynan Middleton has been ruled out for the season. Along with Middleton, the Cardinals also brought right-handed arms in Riley O'Brien and Nick Robertson this offseason, both of whom have been on the injured list for a while.

O'Brien made just one appearance during the Dodgers series to open the year before landing on the injured list, and while he has appeared to be close to a return a few weeks ago, O'Brien has been in a bit of a holding pattern since as he awaits next steps after some issues following his last bullpen.

While, at the moment, it appears there are no structural issues with O'Brien's arm, it's safe to assume his return will be delayed even more, and we likely won't see O'Brien until at least mid-late July (again, purely a guess on my end at this point).

Once O'Brien is able to return though, the Cardinals should be in a spot where they can decide if they want to keep rolling with Giovanny Gallegos after his return, or if it's time to cut ties with him and go to their younger options like Kyle Leahy or whatever young reliever they have in his spot.

Gallegos has a rough start to his 2024 season, posting a 12.00 ERA in 9 innings of work. His velocity was way down and his feel for his slider appeared to be a major issue, and even upon a lengthy rehab assignment over the past few weeks, Gallegos has not found much success against minor-league opponents. In 2.1 inning with the Springfield Cardinals, Gallegos posted an 11.57 ERA and lowly 15.4 K%, while things were just as bad in Memphis with an 11.25 ERA and 16.7 K%.

Now, that does not mean Gallegos is for sure cooked as a reliever, and we also don't know how much of his rehab assignment was about him getting a feel for things and trying things out vs. going out and getting outs. I am very worried about Gallegos though, and there's a good chance he's designated for an assignment even before O'Brien returns.

Whatever reliever is lowest on the totem pole for the Cardinals upon O'Brien's return will likely get the book here. O'Brien could be optioned to Memphis himself, but I think the Cardinals are way too intrigued by O'Brien's stuff not to have him on the roster, so unless the 7th and 8th guys in the bullpen are pitching out of their minds when O'Brien returns, my guess is we see him join the mix.