For Seth Elledge, the Arizona Fall League's annual Fall Stars Game was just the next step in his journey to the Major Leagues.
In fact, making it to The Show is not something St. Louis' No. 25 prospect spends time thinking about.
"I just don't focus on it, to be honest," he said. "I know it sounds cliché, but I focus on my next outing -- and right now, that's the Arizona Fall League."
Elledge pitched two-thirds of an inning Saturday night, registering a strikeout of third-ranked Mets prospect Andres Gimenez and coaxing No. 7 D-backs prospect Geraldo Perdomo into a 5-3 groundout.
For the season, the right-hander has not allowed an earned run across seven frames in six appearances for the Glendale Desert Dogs. He has given up only five hits while whiffing 11 for a 0.71 WHIP and one save.
Stocked with highly regarded prospects, the AFL provides an opportunity for the 23-year-old to learn.
"Day in, day out there is All-Star caliber competition," Elledge said. "The lineups, 1 through 9, I have to fully focus on my best stuff. It's a battle to get outs. I have to do my thing and work on honing my craft."
Fall Stars Gameday box score
The 2017 fourth-round pick of the Mariners was traded on July 27, 2018 for righty Sam Tuivailala. The California League Midseason All-Star piqued the Cardinals' interest by going 5-1 with nine saves and a 1.17 ERA in 31 games for Class A Advanced Modesto.
After the swap, Elledge was assigned to Double-A Springfield in the Texas League, where he finished 3-1 and converted four of six save opportunities with a 4.32 ERA. He was promoted to Triple-A Memphis in September and pitched one scoreless inning during the Redbirds' postseason march to the Pacific Coast League championship.
He began this season again with Springfield before being bumped up to Memphis. His cumulative stat line wasn't eye-popping -- 6-4, three saves, 4.26 ERA -- but Elledge said there were lessons learned and other takeaways that have proved critical to his AFL success.
"After the season, we talked about the Fall League, nothing too specific," he noted, "but I am working on my offspeed pitches and throwing the fastball to all parts of the zone. My curveball, throwing it for strikes, is key. I also have to be able to throw it late in the count.
"I'm here to face some really good competition," he said. "More than anything, it's about refining. I try to stick to my routine. … I haven't heard any long-range plans, so I keep doing my thing, and when the opportunity comes, be ready."
Elledge allowed five runs at Oklahoma City on July 28 and his ERA ballooned to 8.10. However, over his last 10 outings covering 21 innings, he yielded only six runs and lowered his ERA to 4.72 by season's end.
Being able to set aside a bad game is paramount to a reliever's success, and the Dallas Baptist University product said the AFL lineups laced with stars-in-the-making help him concentrate on the task at hand.
Offseason MiLB include
"I've definitely dealt with adrenaline," Elledge admitted. "I have to calm myself down, not worry about who's in the box. I like to attack the hitters -- throw strikes, challenge hitters.
"My first [professional] outing, I gave up a couple runs [for Class A Short Season Everett on June 24, 2017]. After a while, it set in that these are professional baseball games. I have confidence in my abilities to compete at the highest level. You have to."
Elledge has followed the Cardinals' trek through the National League playoffs and understands the opportunities at hand.
"I think it's something everyone can see themselves doing," he said of playing in the big leagues. "It's really awesome to see guys you played with at Memphis now in St. Louis. I'm happy to watch them.
"I was invited to Spring Training this year and being around those guys, that's the new normal. I was throwing bullpen sessions next to guys I see on TV. I want to take full advantage of it. … I definitely look forward, but it's more that the hard work is paying off."