I'm not ready to go on the record and say the Cardinals' bullpen finally has the answer they've been looking for in a closer, at least for the long haul.
What I am ready to say is, I was wrong about Ryan Franklin.
I recently wrote an article entitled, "Cardinals' Red Hot Start Not Without Caution Signs." You can review the article here.
The gist of the article was that we know these guys can hit and score runs, and the starting pitching is expected to remain serviceable, if not downright solid, especially when or if Chris Carpenter gets back.
What we don't know about this team is if they can hold a lead in the late innings.
The early season brings the ever-cautious Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan five- and six-inning outings from the starters. Not doubting, I'm just saying.
The Redbirds' starting staff has averaged six innings per start early in the season. Not terrible, but enough to tax the bullpen significantly already. It doesn't help that each night we seem to trot at least four different guys out there to close a win.
The seventh to ninth innings have been a roller coaster ride for the relievers. Dennys Reyes, Kyle McClellan, Jason Motte, and Ryan Franklin are already in double-digit appearances, and we're only 22 games into the season.
It doesn't take a math genius to figure out we have four guys on pace for 80 appearances. Granted, that number will dwindle as the pitchers start to stretch out and go longer into games.
However, an issue that has saddled the Cardinals late in the past few seasons has been a worn-out bullpen.
One guy who has been lights out thus far has been Ryan Franklin. Through April 29, Franklin has yet to surrender a run, has allowed only four hits, and is seven for seven in save opportunities while pitching 10.1 innings in 10 appearances.
I will be the first to admit, I had Franklin tabbed as the eighth inning setup guy heading in to the season, hoping Chris Perez or Jason Motte could bring the hammer in late. Nothing personal—I just didn't think Franklin had the look or attitude of a closer.
But Mr. Franklin has solidified the ninth inning for the Cardinals, piercing the zone with BBs and getting ahead of nearly every hitter.
What a relief not to have a closer pitching around hitters and having guys on base all the time. OK...sorry, one last jab at Izzy.
Mr. Franklin, I'm sure you will hit some bumps in the road, but I appreciate how wonderful of a start you've had this season. It's about time you garner some recognition.
And I, for one, am happy to admit I was wrong about you.