News Forum Blogs Roster Players Schedule Depth chart Stats Videos Photos

St. Louis Cardinals News

News » Franklin performs a rare feat Few relief pitchers have become full-time closers at the advanced age of 36.

Franklin performs a rare feat Few relief pitchers have become full-time closers at the advanced age of 36.

Franklin performs a rare feat Few relief pitchers have become full-time closers at the advanced age of 36.
In this space last week, a list of potential Cardinals All-Stars for this year's midsummer classic to be played here was offered up, but perhaps another name or two needs to be considered. For instance, there is righthander Ryan Franklin, the late-in-Baseball-life closer who didn't allow a run in April and who nailed all seven of his save opportunities.

What Franklin is doing at 36 - pitching the ninth inning - is fairly unprecedented in the last 15 years considering that other than part of last season Franklin hadn't done it at all in his career. Only a handful of pitchers have become full-time closers for the first time at that age.

The most recent was Salomon Torres, who became Milwaukee's closer last year at age 36 when Eric Gagne flamed out. Torres, who had had 12 saves in both 2006-07 as a part-time closer for Pittsburgh, racked up 28 saves as he helped the Brewers become the National League wild-card team. And then he retired. Ironically, Torres became Milwaukee's closer about the same time last year as Franklin took over - at least for a while - from Jason Isringhausen with the Cardinals .

Tim Worrell, younger brother of former Cardinals relief star Todd Worrell, was a setup man for 10 years with a number of clubs before moving in as the San Francisco closer in 2003. Worrell, at age 36, had 38 saves that year as he helped the Giants to a division title and then had 19 more the next year with Philadelphia.

Among active pitchers, Cincinnati setup man David Weathers bears the most resemblance to Franklin, who himself was a setup man to Weathers with the Reds in 2006. Weathers, a setup man with nine clubs (two of them twice), took over from injured Eddie Guardado as the Reds' closer in 2006. He became a full-time closer at age 37 in 2007 when he had 33 saves, albeit for a bad Reds club, before returning to his setup role when Francisco Cordero was signed by Cincinnati before last season.

Billy Taylor was a setup man with Oakland until the A's gave him the closer's job in 1996 at age 34. He held it for three years and then moved on. Takashi Saito, now with Boston, became the closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 at age 36, but he comes with an asterisk because he had closed in the Japanese leagues, too. And potential Hall of Famer John Smoltz has his own asterisk. After an outstanding career as an Atlanta starter, Smoltz moved to the Braves' bullpen, ostensibly to take some strain off his arm, in 2001. In 2002, his first year as a full-time closer, the 35-year-old Smoltz saved 55 games for the Braves, to be followed by save totals of 45 and 44 the next two years before he returned to the rotation.

NEWS ITEM: The Cardinals raised the eyebrows, not to mention the hackles of their fans, by committing 20 errors in their first 19 games. That pace would be one of more than 170 for the season.

HUMMEL'S TAKE: Let's examine just how much the club was hurt by the errors in its 17-8 start. In the nine games the Cardinals played errorless ball, they were 7-2. In the 16 games in which they didn't, they still were 10-6, meaning the difference in the won-lost percentage was not astronomical.

In six games the Cardinals lost while making at least one error, only three of the errors cost them any runs. An error by shortstop Khalil Greene in the fifth inning at Arizona on April 14 preceded Mark Reynolds' two-run pinch homer off Kyle McClellan. The Cardinals wound up losing, 7-6.

A throwing error by Greene last Sunday gave the Chicago Cubs a run in the fourth inning. The Cubs didn't need it much. The final score was 10-3

And then Chris Duncan's drop of a pop foul at first preceded Adam Dunn's three-homer in the fifth inning Saturday as the Cardinals lost to Washington, 6-1.

NEWS ITEM: Los Angeles Dodgers manager Joe Torre batted center fielder Juan Pierre ninth on Wednesday against the San Francisco Giants.

HUMMEL'S TAKE: Oddly, as Cardinals manager Tony La Russa strays away from hitting a position player ninth and the pitcher eighth because his club is averaging close to six runs a game, Torre and perhaps San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy are climbing on board. La Russa has used the gambit just once this season after employing it all last year.

Torre told Los Angeles reporters he did it because the speedy Pierre, a former stolen-base champion, would "be freer to steal and have (leadoff man Rafael) Furcal behind him instead of the pitcher."

Pierre, who lost his regular job in the Dodgers' outfield with the arrival of Manny Ramirez last summer, said, "I'll hit 11th if that's the way to get in the lineup."

And Bochy told reporters the same night in San Francisco, "There may be times when we do it this year."

Pierre, batting behind starting pitcher Eric Stults, went two for four while hitting ninth. But, if the proof is in the pudding, consider that the Cardinals , in their one fling with the pitcher hitting eighth this year, lost to Pittburgh 7-4. On Wednesday, the Dodgers lost to the Giants 9-4.

The Dodgers hadn't had the pitcher bat anywhere but ninth since slugging Don Drysdale batted seventh in a game against Pittsburgh on Aug. 15, 1965. Drysdale, who went 0 for two with two strikeouts in the game, batted ahead of catcher John Roseboro, who often hit eighth anyway and shortstop John Kennedy (.171 that year), who couldn't hit at all. The Dodgers lost that game 4-2, so it appears little wonder they waited 44 years to try it again.

NEWS ITEM: Cardinals righthander Joel Pi?eiro finished April with a 4-0 record in four starts while striking out just six hitters.

HUMMEL'S TAKE: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, lefthander Greg Hibbard of the 1992 Chicago White Sox was the last starter to go 4-0 in his first four starts while fanning three or fewer hitters a game. Alas, Hibbard finished only 10-7 that year with a 4.40 earned-run average. The soft tosser fanned just 57 in 31 games, 28 of them starts.

Pi?eiro struck out a season-high four on Saturday. A lot of good that did him as he lost to Washington, 6-1.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 3, 2009

St. Louis Cardinals Photos
All the latest St. Louis Cardinals Photos Store photographs. Major League Baseball MLB.
The Most recent video
• One game and it feels like Boston is goi...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Long-time Cardinal employee Kissell dies...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Longtime Cards official George Kissell d...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Longoria's cool, reliever's heat lead Ra...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Duncan to return to Cards (PA SportsTick...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Cardinals, pitching coach agree to 1-yea...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Longtime Cardinals coach Kissel injured ...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Cardinals official Kissell dies after ca...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Pujols named NL Player of the Week (PA S...
Posted By playerofcardinal
• Cardinals re-sign RHP Lohse (PA SportsTi...
Posted By playerofcardinal
Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Subscribe in NewsGator Online
Add to Windows Live

Copyright ©, Inc. All rights reserved 2008.