ST. LOUIS – The St. Louis Cardinals are getting closer and closer to forming the Opening Day roster, and two candidates in a crowded pool of pitchers will not start the season with the big-league club.

The Cardinals have optioned pitchers Dakota Hudson and Matthew Liberatore to the Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds.

Hudson and Liberatore both started several spring games and were given extended looks for a possible rotation spot. Hudson struggled with a 6.23 ERA and 2.42 WHIP over 8.2 innings. Liberatore fared better with two wins, a 1.80 ERA and 9 strikeouts over 10 innings, but the Cardinals opted for more seasoning.

Cardinals manager Oli Marmol noted earlier this month that the Cardinals would be forced to make some “tough decisions” in building the 2023 pitching staff. Sending down a former 16-game winner and a top-team pitching prospect are among the first of many expected.

The latest arrangement means the Cardinals will likely open with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery and Steven Matz. The bullpen remains a work in progress, though there could be room for one or two surprise candidates.

The Cardinals trim their spring roster down to 41 players after the options of Hudson and Liberatore. St. Louis can carry 26 players on its Opening Day roster next week.

Opening Day is only nine days away, and the Cardinals are expected to finalize their roster no later than next Tuesday.