The Cardinals have a day off today so Tony La Russa has some extra time to think about it, but it seems pretty clear that Ryan Franklin’s time as the Cardinals’ closer is over.
Or hell, maybe it ended yesterday and we just didn’t notice it. I mean, in a 1-0 game in the ninth inning, La Russa went to Trever Miller first, who gave up that double to Andre Ethier. Only then did he summon Franklin. I don’t pretend to understand what La Russa does with his bullpen, so it’s hard to say if that, in and of itself, meant anything, but it’s pretty academic now. The closer is the big subject in St. Louis, even if La Russa would rather not talk about it:
Manager Tony La Russa attempted to deflect questions about the topic afterward. “What about the offense?” he said. “We only got two runners to second base against their starter. It’s not all about the closer.”
That might have worked better if he hadn’t berated the media the last time they tried to ask him about the offense.
In any event, Bernie Miklasz has all of the brutal detail about why Franklin has to go. And I can’t say I disagree with any of it. You don’t overreact to a blown save. Or even two. But when you have a 6-4 road trip and three of those losses came when you held the lead at some point in the ninth inning, well, that’s all she wrote.
Bernie thinks the job should go to Mitchell Boggs. Others are lobbying for Eduardo Sanchez, though it seems hard to picture La Russa going with a guy who has two major league appearances under his belt. Whoever the best candidate is, something has to be done.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.