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.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.