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Franklin loses job as Cards' closer

It wasn't clear who the St. Louis Cardinals' closer was as they prepared for the opener of a six-game homestand Tuesday night.

But clearly, Ryan Franklin no longer was the only candidate to get the final outs.

Franklin, 38, who has blown four of five save chances and is 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA, could be used in any situation. But the Cardinals hope to employ him in fewer pressure-packed moments until he regains his effectiveness.

"I think the thing to do is watch the game and see who comes out there," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We can talk about it afterwards. You treat him like a hitter that's struggling. You change his responsibility for a little bit."

Franklin was 27-for-29 in saves last season, but he blew his first opportunity on Opening Day against San Diego, then sqaundered three more chances on the recently completed road trip to San Francisco, Arizona and Los Angeles.

"I know that I'm going to go out there to the bullpen and whenever the phone rings and they say, 'Franklin, get up,' I get up," Franklin said. "That's what I know.

"My stuff's fine. Everything in my arsenal is still there. I haven't lost anything. However they want to put me out there, it doesn't matter. I'm theirs. However they want to treat it, I'm on board."

The Cardinals possess at least three options to close in Miguel Batista (1-0, 1.29 ERA in five games), Jason Motte (0-0, 2.57 ERA in five games) and Mitchell Boggs (0-0, 2.00 ERA in six games), all of whom have been effective. Batista has 41 career saves, while Motte has three and Boggs has none.

Boggs, who has 12 strikeouts in nine innings, has said he would welcome the challenge of closing, but still considers Franklin "a super-important part of this team."

"It hasn't been brought up and I don't think it needs to be brought up," Boggs said of being installed as the closer. "Frankie's our guy. We've all got confidence in him and we'll go from there. If my name gets called, I'll be ready to go. But that's not something I need to think about, and it's not my decision to make."

Franklin allowed a two-run homer to Matt Kemp in the ninth inning Sunday that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 victory. He blew saves in the first two games in San Francisco, one of which came when Colby Rasmus failed to catch Miguel Tejada's deep fly on the warning track in left-center with two outs in the ninth.

"He's also had some tough luck," La Russa said. "A guy (Cameron Maybin) hits a home run on Opening Day against the wind. There's been a couple of plays in center field that are tough plays, but if they get made, things are different."

Franklin said his failures have been tough personally.

"It's hard," he said. "It's hard to put it behind you when you've got all you guys. But that's your job and this is my job. If you're human, it's going to affect you. But you can't let it affect you in here (and) you can't let it affect you on the mound when you go out there."

La Russa remains confident Franklin will work through the trouble.

"He's healthy to pitch," La Russa said. "He's not happy, but he's a tough guy and he knows you go through ruts like this."

Asked what he believes is the best way to make that happen, La Russa said: "When the phone rings in the bullpen and he gets called, stand up and get loose and come in to pitch. That's the way it works. I'm confident he'll get himself ready."

Hitters have been aggressive against Franklin this season, refusing to get deep in counts.

"Everybody knows I'm going to be around the plate and I'm going to throw strikes," he said. "They're probably going to go up there and ... the first (strike) they see, they're going to swing at it. I've got to make adjustments."

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