Maness glad to join Cards' bullpen; Mozeliak addresses Rzepczynski's ineffectiveness

News-DemocratApril 29, 2013 

— Right-hander Seth Maness' reputation as a strike-thrower preceded his arrival in the major leagues.

Maness' contract was purchased from Class AAA Memphis on Monday when the St. Louis Cardinals optioned laboring left-hander Marc Rzepczynski to Memphis.

Maness, the Cardinals' Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, has issued just 18 batters in 237 2/3 professional innings.

Maness (pronounced MAY-niss), 24, said he became a control freak as a young boy growing up in the late 1990s in Pinehurst, N.C., watching Atlanta Braves telecasts on WTBS.

"Watching (Greg) Maddux out there and (Tom) Glavine, those guys, they were always on TBS and I got to follow them," Maness said. "I really took a big, strong liking to Maddux. It helps (to throw hard), but you can work around that."

Like Maddux and Glavine, Maness rests between 88 and 92 mph with his fastball and slider. He regularly dots the bottom of the strike zone, leading to ground ball after ground ball.

"I just try to pound the zone, keep the defense behind me active," said Maness, who was 2-2 with a 4.32 ERA in four starts and 25 innings at Memphis. "And I try to work quick, put the ball in play. Hopefully, (the ball) finds some gloves. It's something I've been trying to do my whole life --just fill up the zone.

"I used to play a little bit of middle infield and I used to hate pitchers out there walking people. If you keep (the infielders) busy, they're more likely to make those plays behind you."

Maness found out about his promotion late Sunday after Memphis completed a doubleheader in Nashville, Tenn.

"It's awesome," he said. "It's quite a feeling, a rush. A lot of emotions run through you, for sure. I'm just happy to be here."

Maness said he had "no clue" about the hardships being endured by the Cardinals' bullpen, whose ERA soared to 5.94 with another disturbing performance Sunday in a 9-0 loss to Pittsburgh when it was tagged for six earned run in 4 1/3 innings.

"It was just out of the blue," he said of his summons to St. Louis. "It kind of caught be by surprise. It definitely catches you off your toes. This is quite a rush. ... I'm a kid in the candy shop, really."

Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak said the timing was appropriate to make a change in the bullpen dynamics.

"Clearly, the way things are going right now with our bullpen, we have to do something," he said. "In Maness' case, it's a compliment to what he's been doing down in Memphis. He's a strike-thrower. I think he gives us some depth right now to a bullpen that's been bleeding a little bit."

Rzepczynski was 0-0 with a 7.88 ERA in nine games and eight innings. He allowed two runs and retired just one batter.

"I just felt like it wasn't getting done," Mozeliak said. "He needs to go down to Memphis and work on a few things. Obviously, getting ahead and working in pitcher's counts should benefit him.

"But when you look at results --and this game is all about results -- it just wasn't going the way we had hoped."

Mozeliak could have made other moves, since Rzepczynski isn't the only reliever struggling. Mitchell Boggs, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Fernando Salas also have been tagged.

"I get that there are some other people not performing well and a lot of people are asking me about them as well," Mozeliak said. "I just don't want to make wholesale changes just to do it. But I do think everybody realizes we have to make some changes."

The bullpen has allowed 14 of 42 inherited runners to score, and Rzepczynski was the worst of the lot, permitting six of seven inherited runners to cross the plate.

"You're coming in with opportunities to do things, and it just wasn't getting done," Mozeliak said, referring to Rzepczynski. "When you think about inherited runners scoring, (he) just was becoming ineffective. We can't just keep rolling it over and over again, thinking we're going to get a different outcome. I think they define that as insanity if we keep trying it that way."

Mozeliak said Maikel Cleto will replace Maness in the Memphis rotation. Cleto is 0-1 with a 14.46 ERA in seven relief outings.

Maness doesn't care how he's used in the bullpen.

"I got a little experience in spring training (relieving), so hopefully I make that adjustment," said Maness, who acknowledged his first assignment will be emotional. "I'm definitely going to have some jitters, but that's expected."

Maness said he learned a lot in spring training, which was his first big-league camp.

"It was definitely a big help," he said. "It is spring training; it's a lot different than the regular season. But I got to hang out and spend some time with these guys and meet a lot of guys. It was pretty cool."

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he was "excited" to have Maness in the mix.

"He's throwing real well, and he made a very strong impression in spring training," Matheny said. "It's good to have him here, and hopefully, at the same time, it will give 'Zep' a chance to go and get some things figured out.

"Maness gives us a little more depth and he's a guy who can eat up some innings. We'll just kind of see, as he throws, how he fits in with the rest of the group down there."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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