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How long can the Cardinals hold on with half a bullpen?

The Cardinals stand a half game out of first place in the National League Central Division as the calendar gets ready to turn to May.

But I wonder for how long a team with excellent starting pitching and a solid offensive core can keep it together when the bullpen is sucking the confidence out of the rest of the club with its terrible start to the year.

It doesn't seem like there is anything the hitters can do to put the game out of reach. And it's natural for starting pitchers to get grouchy when they left with a lead and end up with a no decision.

But those uncomfortable clubhouse moments are going to happen when you can pencil in five runs for the other team in the last three innings of every other game or so. And, after the Cardinals threw away a great pitching performance by Jake Westbrook Saturday with another bullpen blow-up, you could see the offense pressing from the start on Sunday.

I'm not sure what the answer is because it's highly unlikely the Redbirds could trade for a closer and set-up man at this point of the season. Manager Mike Matheny tried to get by using half of his relievers and saving the rest of them for mop up duty. 

Can you send Mitchell Boggs, a guy who made his major league debut way back in 2008, back to the minor leagues to work out the major mechanical issues that have made him completely unreliable at this point?

It seemed so cruel a couple of years ago when former manager Tony La Russa and GM John Mozeliak shipped Boggs to Memphis a couple of years ago and put him in the starting rotation of the Class AAA club. But Boggs has terribly inconsistent mechanics and he needed to get some innings under his belt to work things out. He seems to be in the same boat all over again.

Is Trevor Rosenthal, who seemed to be able to handle the pressure of the stretch and the playoff push in 2012, wilting from the weight of being used in the set-up role instead of being a guy who came in to get an out or two earlier in the game?

Maybe the Cardinals will get a miracle in a couple of days and closer Jason Motte will get the green light to pitch. But he hasn't thrown for a month, so he's likely another month away from being in game shape if somehow he avoids surgery. That means the Redbirds need to get their act together with the players they have. They don't have the luxury of taking a month off.