Seung Hwan Oh nailed down his first major-league save Saturday and added another one Sunday, but St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is in no hurry to anoint him the closer.
“He’s an option,” Matheny said Sunday morning before the Cardinals outlasted Milwaukee 9-8 in a game that had two rain delays totaling 2 hours, 15 minutes.
“I don’t see an urgency to do anything different (with the bullpen),” Matheny said. “It’s not like we put a ‘C’ on their chest because they’re the closer, or give them a better locker. It’s just, ‘What inning are they going to pitch in?’ All of them can be just as important. I don’t feel like we’ve got to give titles and roles right now.”
I don’t see an urgency to do anything different. It’s not like we put a ‘C’ on their chest because they’re the closer, or give them a better locker. It’s just, ‘What inning are they going to pitch in?’ All of them can be just as important. I don’t feel like we’ve got to give titles and roles right now.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on the lack of urgency to name a closer
Matheny demoted Trevor Rosenthal from the closer’s role after Rosenthal allowed three ninth-inning runs in a 4-3 loss at Seattle on June 24. Rosenthal was ineffective again Sunday, failing to retire a hitter and allowing two runs on three hits.
Since Rosenthal’s blown chance against the Mariners, Oh has posted the Cardinals’ only two saves. He was sharp Saturday, setting down all three Milwaukee hitters on 13 pitches, including strikeouts of Jonathan Lucroy and Kirk Neuwenhuis.
Oh labored Sunday in relief of Sam Tuivailala, who allowed three runs on two hits in the ninth without retiring a batter. Oh walked in a run and permitted a two-run double, but finally struck out pinch-hitter Martin Maldonado to end the game.
Closing, of course, is nothing new to Oh, nicknamed “Stone Buddha” and “The Final Boss.” Oh, who turns 34 on July 15, registered 357 saves in the Korean and Japanese leagues.
“He looks the same all the time,” Matheny said. “I think that’s why he’s been successful at what he’s done, whether it be pitching here in the seventh or sixth or pitching in Korea and Japan in the ninth – or here in the ninth. He’s the same guy.
“He’s very confident in himself. What he’s been able to do in the environment that he’s done it before would lend him to having a good chance of success here.”
Pham gets another call
Tommy Pham was in the starting lineup in center field for the third straight game Sunday. He was 1-for-3 with a double and was 3-for-10 with three runs scored in the series against Milwaukee, which the Cardinals swept to close the first half of the season with a 43-38 record.
“I see good defense,” Matheny said. “It’s an important position.”
Matheny also noticed the reverse splits of Milwaukee right-hander Chase Anderson, who started Sunday. Anderson had allowed a .325 average against right-handed hitters. Left-handers had just a .209 average, which explained why Kolten Wong was on the bench instead of Pham.
“Against Anderson, righties have been able to have some pretty good numbers,” Matheny said. “That goes into it. Kolten obviously had a great game (Saturday). He did a nice job at second base and got a big hit for us. We want to keep him sharp, but when we can get Tommy in the outfield, even if it isn’t a lefty, it makes sense to give him some opportunities.”
Wong came into the game in the seventh and had a double in his only plate appearance. He scored on Greg Garcia’s single.
The Cardinals signed 13 international free agents Saturday as they continued their aggressive approach in the overseas market.
The most promising prospects in the group are 6-foot-3, 215-pound right-handed-hitting outfielder Victor Garcia, 16, of Barcelona, Venezuela, and 6-6, 220-pound right-handed pitcher Johan Oviedo, 18, of La Habana, Cuba.
“Garcia has a high offensive ceiling with run-producing potential at a corner outfield position,” said Moises Rodriguez, the Cardinals’ director of international operations. “He possesses a strong combination of hitting ability and future power.
“Oviedo has a plus fastball and a three-pitch mix. He projects as a top of the rotation starter who has an excellent chance to flourish within our system.”
Nine position players and four pitchers were signed. Catcher Carlos Soto, right-handed pitcher Enmanuel Solano and outfielder Diomedes Del Rio will be activated to play for the Cardinals Dominican Summer League team. All others will be signed for the 2017 minor-league season.
Other players signed were: outfielder Carlos Soler, right-hander Allinson Benitez; shortstop Franklin Soto; outfielder Luis Montano; shortstop Yowelfy Rosario; outfielder Alexander Samuel; catcher Joyser Garcia; and right-hander Rodard Avelino.
Catcher Eric Fryer, who served as Yadier Molina’s backup until Brayan Pena returned last week from knee surgery, was claimed off waivers by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
The Pirates, who begin a four-game series against the Cardinals on Monday at Busch Stadium, needed depth at the major-league level since Francisco Cervelli is on the disabled list with a broken hamate bone in his left hand.
Chris Stewart also is experiencing leg problems and could land on the disabled list, which would have left Erik Kratz as Pittsburgh’s only healthy backstop.
Fryer, 30, is in his second stint with the Pirates. He played a combined 16 games with them in 2011 and 2012. Fryer batted .368 (14-for-38) in 24 games with the Cardinals, logging a .415 on-base percentage.