If you didn't hear it yet, just wait until your "Ryan Franklin Demoted" Google Alert comes through—Eduardo Sanchez, a 22-year-old St. Louis Cardinals relief prospect who's been followed with rapt interest since he was a 20-year-old relief prospect, struck out five batters in two innings in his Major League debut. Franklin has his job for now, and is as likely as the field, I think, to have it the rest of the year, but the forces for closer-change have a new youngster to mobilize around. Some relief debuts from recent Cardinals bullpen history:
Jason Motte: Motte is remembered more for his 2009 debut, in which he blew an opening-day save and left the wide-open closer job to Ryan Franklin, but after his invincible 2008 season in Memphis—110 strikeouts in 66 innings—he got a look in September and was... similarly invincible. He struck out two in an inning and a third—against the Arizona Diamondbacks, no less—and finished the season with 16 strikeouts, three walks, and one earned run in 11 innings.
Mitchell Boggs: Boggs's recent strikeout mania makes him a likely candidate for Ryan Franklin's immediate successor, but it's become increasingly easy to forget that he began his Cardinals career as a hittable sixth-starter type, throwing low-nineties sinkers.
When he returned to the Cardinals as a reliever in September of 2009 he was a changed pitcher; his fastball was Motte-like, and his slider had an out-pitch's bite. He struck out five batters in his first 3 2/3 relief innings and looked outstanding doing it, setting expectations, perhaps, a mite too high for his 2010 season.
Chris Perez: In 2008 everybody expected Chris Perez to be closing by 2011. And they were right! The Chrisper struck out a batter in a perfect inning against Tampa Bay in May of 2008. His first six innings went by without a run scored, before those control problems we'd been warned about finally caught up to him.
Perez's 25 innings in Memphis that year were tantalizing—38 strikeouts against just 18 hits—and that's what we don't get with Eduardo Sanchez. He's had a great minor league career, but it wasn't so dominant as Motte's or Perez's, and we don't have a season of space in which to await him.
It had kept expectations relatively level, as these things go. Until he struck out five batters in seven tries.