Ryan Franklin Removed As Cardinals Closer

Ryan Franklin's out as St. Louis Cardinals closer, at least for the moment. Mitchell Boggs, Miguel Batista, and Jason Motte make the most sense as replacements.

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Mitchell Boggs Converts Cardinals' Save Opportunity Wednesday

The question of the St. Louis Cardinals' closer situation is still open as of Thursday morning, but Mitchell Boggs was the first reliever to get a save opportunity after Ryan Franklin was removed from the job on Tuesday, saving the Cardinals' game-two win over the Washington Nationals with a scoreless inning. Boggs allowed one hit but struck out the first batter he faced, and ended the game with an infield pop-up to pick up the first save of his career. 

Boggs began his career as a sinkerball-oriented starter with serious control problems, but since entering the bullpen at the end of the 2009 season he's become one of the Cardinals' top bullpen projects. At his best he features a fastball that sits between 95 and 97 miles per hour and still has great sinking movement; he combines it with a slider, inconsistent but with a lot of break, that hovers around 85. 

Of course, it won't be easy for Boggs to hold onto the role—in addition to Franklin, the Cardinals saw excellent outings on Wednesday from young relievers Fernando Salas (three innings, three strikeouts), Eduardo Sanchez (two innings, two strikeouts), and Jason Motte (one inning, one strikeout.) With a runner on and two out Tony La Russa sent veterans Miguel Batista and Trever Miller to warm up, but they weren't needed. Just then. 

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Ryan Franklin Out As Cardinals Closer: Some Fantasy Options

Here in St. Louis the Cardinals' decision to remove Ryan Franklin from the closer's role he's inhabited for most of the last three years is being viewed primarily in terms of the impact it will have on the Cardinals' ability to win games—positive, I think—but elsewhere it just might be true that fantasy baseball players are more interested in who might pick up the slack saves-wise. So far as I can tell there are three avenues the Cardinals might explore—and they might explore all three of them. Miguel Batista, Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte; pick your save-generating poison. 

Miguel Batista is the worst option, on this list because Tony La Russa loves veterans and he once spent a season as closer for a team that apparently didn't know better. Batista is a crafty veteran who behaves exactly like a twenty-something thrower-not-a-pitcher; he can't really find the strike zone, except on accident. 

Mitchell Boggs was, in a past life, a pitch-to-contact starter. Since moving to the bullpen his fastball sits around 96 miles per hour and he matches it up with an occasionally outstanding slider that he has trouble locating. He's off to a hot start in 2011, which makes him the logical candidate for a closer audition. Which doesn't make him the most likely candidate, necessarily. 

Jason Motte is the dark horse on this list. He was briefly and unofficially anointed the closer to start 2009, after a stunning season at AAA Memphis, before an opening day meltdown sent the Cardinals back into the arms of Franklin. His 2010 was a significant improvement, though in 2011 he hasn't quite distinguished himself. He has a converted-catcher fastball that occasionally flirts with triple-digits, strikingly good command of it, and a tendency to pretend he has other pitches, which is a bad idea. 

Any of these guys could be the Cardinals' next closer; it's not an incredibly difficult job. As to who it'll be—that's anybody's guess. 

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Ryan Franklin Removed As Cardinals Closer

Veteran St. Louis Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin was removed from the role Tuesday, according to reports from the Associated Press, following a catastrophic start to his 2011 season in which he'd blown four saves in five chances. Franklin blew just two saves in 29 chances in 2010, and was an All-Star in 2009, when he saved 38 games with an ERA of 1.92. The Cardinals have not yet announced who will replace him for the time being, though former closer Miguel Batista and young right-handers Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte are the likely options. 

Franklin became the closer in 2008, just his third full season as a Major League reliever at 35, when long-time closer Jason Isringhausen's hip problems led to serious control problems. After Motte seems likely to receive the closer job in 2009, Franklin came in following an ugly Opening Day blown save and held the job without drama for two seasons. 

Franklin gave up a walk-off home run on Sunday to the Los Angeles Dodgers' Matt Kemp. He's got an ERA of 11.57 across six appearances, and gave up a home run in his only non-save appearance of the year as well. 

For analysis on the move, check out Viva El Birdos's Ryan Franklin's bad timing, fastball, from before the news broke. 

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