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Closing Thoughts: Cardinals in committee, unapologetically

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bullpen phone

The closing committee in St. Louis has been a nightmare for the fantasy community, but, unfortunately, it seems to be working out just fine for the Cardinals. The team is 20-15, in first place in the NL Central, and five different relievers have earned saves.

Fernando Salas poached the club's most recent save from a shaky Eduardo Sanchez, who had successfully converted in his previous two opportunities. Both Salas and Sanchez have minor league closing experience, and both have excellent fantasy ratios and K-rates. Sanchez gets the more impressive radar readings, but Salas hasn't been nearly as walk-prone. Either pitcher is capable of closing, neither has a monopoly on save opportunities. We once thought Mitchell Boggs was in the mix, but he was bounced at the first sign of ninth inning trouble.

So here we are, stuck in committee. The Cards haven't completely written off Ryan Franklin just yet, which is somewhat alarming. Note the recent comments from St. Louis' general manager:

The 38-year-old Franklin has been idle since May 1 after blowing four of five save opportunities. General manager John Mozeliak said it's important to get Franklin back into the mix at some point.

"We have to make those opportunities available," Mozeliak said. "If you're in that snake-bitten mode, the only way you can get out of it is pitching."

Franklin has allowed at least one hit in each of his 10 appearances so far, and he's given up runs in eight of 10. Twice this season, Franklin has failed to retire a batter. He's allowed four homers and four walks in 9.1 innings, striking out only three hitters. There's no obvious reason to make meaningful opportunities available to Franklin, but the Cards may eventually do just that.

As of this moment — and of course things could change tonight — Salas and Sanchez seem to be co-chairing this committee. But we never really know what name will be uttered when the bullpen phone rings. I've got an NL-only team with Salas, Sanchez, Boggs and Jason Motte on its roster, a special sort of fantasy hell that I hope none of you are suffering.

In the closing grid below, nobody gets the prime spot in the column on the left. If you made me pick just one, it would probably be Sanchez. But that 'pen is really a spin-the-wheel situation.

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closing thoughts 5-10

We can't get through one of these closer posts without discussing the Dodgers, so here's a link to a piece on Hong-Chih Kuo's usage. He's reportedly been approved for use on back-to-back days, but the yips remain a worry. And his last outing was messy. Vicente Padilla appears to have the ninth for now, and he gives you SP-eligibility, too. Jonathan Broxton may not make it back for six weeks, and it sounds like he's not guaranteed anything upon return. Let's see what you've got, Vicente. As much as I wish that Kenley Jansen were part of this discussion — he's struck out 25 batters in 14.2 innings — he's only slowly working his way back into the circle of trust, following a pair of ugly April appearances.

The David Aardsma MRI results are back and the news isn't great: Grade 2 UCL sprain. Aardsma is expected to make a visit to Dr. Yocum, which is never a great sign. And we shall speak no more of this, because I had high modest hopes for Aardsma.

Oakland's theoretical closer Andrew Bailey will pitch a simulated game on Tuesday, as he continues his rehab of forearm issues. In the meantime, please enjoy Brian Fuentes responsibly.

Jose Contreras (elbow) threw 40 pitches or so in a painless bullpen session on Tuesday. Ryan Madson has filled in admirably (0.64 ERA, 2-0, 4 SV), so let's not assume he'll give up the closing gig when Contreras returns. Brad Lidge, who you may have forgotten, is hoping to return in mid-June.

No, Mark Melancon didn't necessarily receive a full, unqualified endorsement from his manager...

"We're still kind of going through a process," [manager Brad] Mills said. "We can call Melancon the closer tonight and go from there. I'm not trying to dodge the question, but we might have to mix some things around and depending on what part of the lineup we're with and so on and so forth. There's no reason to think we're not going to be able to get some outs before we get to Mark either."

...but we rarely get anything more from a skipper, not in these interim closer situations. Melancon earned a save on Friday, pitching a clean inning, and he's the only reliever that Mills has actually named. Wilton Lopez is presumably Plan B. It doesn't sound like Brandon Lyon (biceps, rotator cuff, bad) can make it back within 15 days.

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