Cardinals remove struggling Ryan Franklin from closer role

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The Cardinals have finally done the inevitable.

While Tony La Russa wouldn’t say the change is permanent, he told B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest this afternoon that struggling closer Ryan Franklin will not be used in the ninth inning for the time being.

Franklin has allowed six runs on eight hits — including three home runs — over 4 2/3 innings this season, blowing four out of his first five save opportunities.

“It’s a combination of things,” La Russa said. “He’s in a little bit of a rut. …You treat him like a hitter that’s struggling. You change his responsibility for a little bit.”

Ever-unpredictable, La Russa wouldn’t say who he would turn to should a save situation present itself tonight against the Nationals.

“Watch the game,” La Russa said. “We’ll see. I think the thing you do is you watch the game and see who comes out there. We can talk about it afterwards.”

Right-hander Mitchell Boggs is considered the favorite for the role, while 40-year-old Miguel Batista and fireballer Jason Motte are also possibilities.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman not considering demoting struggling Greg Bird

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Yankees first baseman Greg Bird gave his team tons of confidence to hand him the everyday job at first base to start the 2017 regular season, batting .451/.556/1.098 with eight home runs in 51 spring at-bats. But he’s followed that up by hitting .107/.254/.214 through the first month of the regular season.

GM Brian Cashman doesn’t have any intent to demote Bird back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports. Cashman said, “It’s not even an option for me in my mind right now, at all.”

Bird didn’t start Sunday’s game against the Orioles, a 7-4 loss in 11 innings. Lefty Wade Miley started for the Orioles, prompting manager Joe Girardi to put Chris Carter into the lineup at first base. If Bird isn’t able to figure things out, Carter might have an increased role on the team.

Chris Archer threw behind Jose Bautista

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Rays starter Chris Archer threw his first pitch to Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista behind the slugger’s back with one out in the first inning of Sunday afternoon’s game in Toronto. Bautista and Archer then had a staredown. Home plate umpire Jim Wolf issued warnings to both teams. Bautista ultimately flied out to right field and he appeared to have a quick word with Archer on his way back to the dugout.

Archer could have been exacting revenge — euphemistically known as “protecting his teammate” — because Jays reliever Joe Biagini hit Rays outfielder Steven Souza in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game. Souza was forced to leave the game and underwent an X-ray, which came back negative. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup. Biagini’s pitch did not appear to be intentional.

The Jays won Sunday’s contest 3-1 with no further incident. The two clubs meet again in Tampa for a three-game series starting on May 5, so we’ll see if Sunday was the last of the bad blood between them.