As a professional athlete, Sam Gaviglio must pay close attention to what goes into his body — even on Thanksgiving.

As a professional athlete, Sam Gaviglio must pay close attention to what goes into his body — even on Thanksgiving.

Which is why his offseason plan for this winter in Ashland is more difficult than it may seem.

"I'll just be working out," he said, "trying to put on a little more weight."

Then, after a slight pause, he adds in a serious tone, "good weight, not bad weight."

The results are pending, but there's no doubt that Gaviglio has a lot to be thankful for, as do the St. Louis Cardinals.

An Ashland High alum and current minor league pitcher, Gaviglio continued to progress as a professional baseball player in the Cardinals organization this fall, putting up solid numbers for the Salt River Rafters of the Arizona Fall League.

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Gaviglio, 23, who led Ashland to its lone state championship as a senior in 2008, was 3-0 with a 3.58 ERA in six starts for the Rafters, who finished second to the Mesa Solar Sox in the AFL East.

"(Gaviglio) showed he can pitch at that level, no question about it," Gary LaRocque, the Cardinals' senior advisor for player development, told mlb.com.

The six-team fall league is billed as a sort of minor league all-star series. Each Major League club holds a position draft in August to determine which minor league players will go to Arizona, and the picks are generally top-flight double-A and triple-A players. According to mlb.com, the 2013 MLB All-Star Game featured 36 AFL alums, including five starting position players on each team and the starting pitcher for the American League, Max Scherzer.

An eventual call-up to the big leagues now appears to be within Gaviglio's reach, too.

After a solid 2012 campaign for Class A Quad City, Gaviglio missed most of the 2013 season with a forearm strain but returned to the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League (Class A Advanced) in late August. He picked up right where he left off for the Cardinals, allowing one unearned run on three hits in 52/3 innings in his first game back Aug. 24 against the Bradenton Marauders.

More success followed for the former Class 5A pitcher of the year who went on to star at Oregon State. Gaviglio held the Charlotte Stone Crabs to one earned run on five hits in seven innings in his next outing and ended up with an outstanding 2013 stat line. Combining his Palm Beach performances with an early-season stint in the Gulf Coast League, Gaviglio finished the year 4-1 with a 2.27 ERA, 39 strikeouts and 13 walks in 472/3 innings.

After putting up those kind of numbers it was no surprise that Gaviglio was chosen to represent the Cardinals in Arizona, and he did not disappoint. Take away his one so-so outing — a six-run, 42/3 -inning stumble against the Surprise Saguaros on Oct. 24 — and Gaviglio was a wrecking ball on the mound, surrendering only five earned runs in 23 innings while striking out 19 for a 1.95 ERA. In his last three starts, Gaviglio gave up one run on nine hits in 15 innings with 12 strikeouts and four walks.

"I was really proud to represent the Cardinals," Gaviglio said. "I got to face some great competition and it was a great experience. I started off a little slow, but I felt like I finished strong my last couple starts. I think it was just kind of having confidence in my stuff and also trusting it."

His stuff includes a low-90s fastball that he's possessed since his days as a Grizzly and a nasty sinker that's become his most trusted pitch.

"It's kind of my bread and butter," he said of the sinker. "And that's what the Cardinals wanted me to work on — my off-speed stuff."

Now, Gaviglio, who's been back in Ashland for about two weeks, has some time off before returning in mid-February for what should be his third full season in the minors. According to cardinalsfarm.com, a website dedicated to the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, Gaviglio will likely be stationed in Palm Beach again in 2014.

"I think it all depends on the big league club and how I do in spring training," Gaviglio said.

Whether he's back in Single-A ball or makes the Cardinals' Double-A squad, the Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League, Gaviglio believes he's headed in the right direction. Now, he says, taking the next step in his development is just a matter of putting in the hours, both physically and mentally.

"I just kind of work on what I need to do to get better," he said. "If I do those things then I'll be where I want to be.

"A big part of it is understanding myself, how I operate, how I work between starts. And also, what I do going into a start, my pregame warm-up and being able to read hitters."

Gaviglio was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 40th round of the 2008 MLB first-year player draft but instead of signing with the Rays elected to accept a scholarship offer from Oregon State. The decision paid off. Gaviglio emerged as the surprise staff ace as a freshman, toughed out an injury-plagued sophomore campaign then was better than ever as a college junior. In what turned out to be his final season as a Beaver, Gavigio was 12-3 with a 2.54 ERA and 116 strikeouts in 2011. He recorded four of the team's six complete games and earned first-team all-Pac-10 honors.

In June of that year Gaviglio was drafted again, this time in the fifth round — 170th overall — by the Cardinals. This time he signed — for $175,000, according to stlcardinals.scout.com — and made his professional debut later that summer as a member of the Batavia Muckdogs.