The Cardinals Bullpen Solution: Jason Isringhausen?

Joel KochSenior Analyst IJuly 22, 2008

Now, I know Cardinals Nation, this is not what you wanted to hear. Isringhausen, though, could be the answer to a bulging problem.

Recently, Tony La Russa has said that Isringhausen wants to close and that has been causing his most recent problems. He's focused on getting eight more saves so he can reach the 300 plateau. Plus, he's been a closer for nine seasons now. He wants to be in the back end, not before someone else.

La Russa also has said for about a week now that the situation would dictate who closes down the game. That frustrates Isringhausen even more. He doesn't want the situation to dictate whether he closes or not. He wants to say, "My arm hurts from closing three straight days. Let someone else do it today."

Here's the move of the year for the Cardinals: make Isringhausen the permanent closer. Ryan Franklin has done a terrific job as the closer in Isringhausen's absence, but Isringhausen is back. Sure, he's had a few hiccups recently because of the current situation. He's not mentally in the closer's role because he's been told he's not the closer.

The Cardinals bullpen was doing quite well before Isringhausen blew up and eventually hit the disabled list. That's when it went out of whack. The way to right the ship is to put Isringhausen back in the closer's role...full-time.

With Isringhausen back in the role full-time, the rest of the bullpen can fall back into place. Russ Springer and Franklin are the full-time setup men. Since Franklin has become the closer, these two have shown the ability to shut down opponents when called upon. That's a steady bridge.

Randy Flores is your left handed pitcher and Ron Villone is the left handed specialist. These two can change roles, but you want to make sure that they know their roles so they are mentally into their roles. Seriously, all baseball teams should have a shrink. The mental side of life is huge in the game.

That leaves two jobs up in the air. Kyle McClellan cannot be left out. He could honestly be in the running for Rookie of the Year. Not only is he putting up spectacular numbers in his rookie season (54 IP and a 2.83 ERA in 48 games), but he had NEVER pitched higher than Double A prior to this season. That's remarkable.

McClellan's job in this bullpen is the long man. He'll pitch two innings, he'll pitch one inning. Whatever the job, he'll do it. Pretty much the job he had at the start of the year.

The only job left is job number seven. Who will it be? None other than Kelvin Jimenez. He too can be used as a long man, or a short man. Whatever the team needs, he'll be there. This is highly important, having two guys that can pitch two innings in a pinch. Since the Cardinals have four current starters who think the game ends after five innings, this could become highly important.

Come August, this bullpen will be even more deadly. Todd Wellemeyer or Braden Looper will be losing their job in the rotation when Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright come back, so one of them will move to the 'pen. They'll replace Jimenez and be the other inning eater.

Plus, with the two aces back to match with the current healthy ace of Kyle Lohse, the bullpen will see less innings. This also prevents the acquisition of a bullpen arm and allows John Mozeliak to add an impact bat or a bat for the bench.

See how all of this fell into place after a closer was named? Not just a closer, but the best closer in St. Louis history.

And before anyone asks, I'm extremely comfortable with Isringhausen as the closer. I have always been an Isringhausen backer and have never called for his head. He's healthy and ready to close. Why not save some prospects from moving to land a fill-in player when we can fix it from what we have?