Ryan Franklin has blown three saves in four chances this season, allowing a total of four runs in 3.2 innings, but yesterday manager Tony La Russa made it clear that he’s sticking with the 38-year-old right-hander as the Cardinals’ closer:
I don’t see anything that’s changed between anybody that’s his competition. … Somebody’s got to come up with somebody that’s better on our club right now. The fact is that right now those young guys aren’t better.
Matthew Leach of MLB.com notes that two of the blown saves came in part because the defense didn’t make plays behind Franklin, but he’s allowed opponents to hit .353 with a .588 slugging percentage while already coughing up more leads than he did in all of 2010.
With that said, making sweeping changes based on what essentially boils down to 20 bad plate appearances rarely makes sense and Franklin had been an excellent reliever for St. Louis in each of the past four seasons. He deserves a chance to turn things around, but if not La Russa indirectly mentioned Miguel Batista, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte as potential alternatives. For the sake of Cardinals fans, let’s hope he wouldn’t actually hand ninth-inning duties to Batista.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.