After another spectacular bullpen meltdown Sunday it appears that the Cardinals have no choice but to factor Joe Kelly and some of the other long, lost relievers into the late inning mess... er, I mean mix.
Mitchell Boggs lately has been pouring gasoline on ninth inning fires -- some of which he starts himself. He's just terrible right now and needs to work out his issues in less stressful situations.
But that's impossible with the way the Redbirds have been working with half a bullpen lately. Kelly and Fernando Salas rarely see the light of day except in mop up situations. I've seen former St. Louis manager Tony La Russa go to a three-man bullpen in the playoffs. And you can get away with that over a short series. But you can't do it over a six-month-long season.
Some of these other guys are going to have to get into the mix, one way or another. If Trevor Rosenthal slides from the eighth inning to the ninth, Kelly is either going to have to start seeing some higher leverage situations in the seventh with Edward Mujica pitching the eighth, or vice versa.
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The Cardinals don't really have any obvious answers to their bullpen woes because almost all of their relievers are pitching below par. Only Mujica has an ERA to write home about -- 1.43 -- and the only save he was able to get this year was by the most slim of margins. Rosenthal has a batting average against over the last week of .462 and Boggs has pitched bad enough in the last week to make his 11.62 ERA go up to 12.46. That's not an easy thing to do.
So, there's nowhere to hide struggling pitchers. Someone has to pitch in the tough spots. I think, at this point, the only thing to do is tinker a bit with the roles and leave everybody where they land long enough to give them a chance to settle in.
Why isn't Kelly getting a chance to pitch in important situations? He's pitched in only four games this year, which is impossible to imagine with how often manager Mike Matheny has had to pick up the phone His second game was a clunker in which he allowed three runs in 1 2/3 innings. But if you factor out that game, he's allowed only one run in his four other innings pitched.
Salas started the season with an unfortunate infinity ERA in his first appearance. But he's been better lately with three hits and one run allowed in his last 5 1/3 innings of work.
There's not a whole lot to be confident about here. But the bottom line is that there is no calvary coming. These pitchers are too talented to not be at least competent if not great. While Boggs has failed repeatedly in the ninth inning, there are too many guys who simply haven't had a chance to prove what they can do.