It's only two letters. But "if" may be the biggest word in the English language.
And, unfortunately for the Cardinals closer, it cropped up in relation to his name on St. Louis Sports radio.
When asked on Team 1380 A.M. about whether he thought Ryan Franklin would rebound to be the dominant closer he was in the first half of 2009 after he stumbled down the stretch, Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said IF Franklin returns as the closer, he will probably do a pretty good job.
Yikes. The Cardinals just signed Franklin to a two-year contract extension to be the team's closer and the pitching coach says "IF we use him in that role..." ???
Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin tries to pick off a baserunner in a game against the Reds.
Pressed on the statement by interviewer Tim McKernan, Duncan said he would like to see the Cardinals get an experienced late inning reliever for the 2010 who could take some of the pressure off of Franklin. Duncan elaborated that Franklin seems to get physically and mentally drained by the pressures of being the closer and someone else might be needed to carry some of the load. What he never came out and said but seemed to be written between the lines was that he wasn't sure if Franklin could rebound from a lousy end to 2009 and he though the Cardinals need to cover themselves by having another option at the position.
In the first half of 2009, batters hit .165 off of Franklin. In the second half they hit .284. In the first half he struck out 27 hitters and walked seven. in the second half he struck out 17 and walked 17. In the first half he had an walks and hits per inning average of 0.794. In the second half, he allowed 1.704 batters to reach base per inning with a walk or a hit. During the last month of the season, opposing hitters batted .412 against Franklin.
There aren't really any big name options that the Cardinals could afford to pursue right now because they are supposedly focused on trying to re-sign Matt Holliday and everything else will have to wait to see how that shakes out. Even if Holliday goes elsewhere, the Birds aren't likely to invest a lot of money in a position they thought they had already filled. But the bullpen certainly could use some attention with the way it pitched in the second half of last season.