This week, the St. Louis Cardinals
began to rebuild a bullpen that allowed 31 blown saves in 2008. One of the weakest links in the team’s
pen was the inability to find consistency from its left-handed relievers. Ron Villone posted an ERA of 4.68 and
Randy Flores was demoted back to the minor leagues.
General Manager John Mozeliak and
staff began to reconstruct the bullpen by claiming Charlie Manning off waivers
from the Washington Nationals. In
his rookie season of 2008, the southpaw allowed left-handed hitters only a .203
batting average against.
As the team continues to improve
the bullpen, here is a look at candidates from within as well as possible free
Ron Villone signed a minor league contract
before the 2008 season but would appear in 74 big league games in 2008. The 38-year-old did hold left-handed
hitters to a .176 average but righties tagged him for a .300 mark. Villone is a free agent and early
indications make it appear there may not be a lot of interest in bringing him
After excelling in the 2006
post-season, Randy Flores is coming
off an abysmal 2008 that included a trip back to the minor leagues. In 43 games for the Cardinals, the
opposition batted .315 against him, including a .314 average against
left-handers. Like Villone,
interest in Flores may be waning plus Flores had shoulder surgery at the end of September. He is under organizational control if
the Cardinals want him back.
Jaime Garcia appeared in 10 games as a rookie
but will be lost for 2009 due to Tommy John surgery. Tyler Johnson had shoulder surgery
during 2008 and his status for the upcoming season is uncertain.
The Cardinals sent three
left-handers to the Arizona Fall League to show their stuff, possibly to compete
to fill a spot in the 2009 major league bullpen.
St. Louis native Tyler Norrick appeared in only six
games due to injury in 2008. The
25-year-old goes to the desert to try and jump-start his career after a
sensational 2007 at Palm
three games for Peoria, Norrick has allowed one earned run and
struck out five in 4.2 innings.
Brad Furnish struggled to find any consistency
at Palm Beach,
posting an 8-8 record with an ERA over five. After a promotion to Double-A
Springfield, the 23-year-old posted a superb 1.64 ERA and allowed Texas League
hitters only a .221 average. After
being tagged with two runs in his first outing of the Fall League, the Texan has
spun 2.1 shutout innings while striking out three.
An independent league find, Justin Fiske started the 2008 season at
the Quad Cities as a reliever and would end his season in Double-A as a
starter. In 26 games including 10
starts for Springfield, the 5-foot-11 hurler posted a 4-0
record to go along with a 2.97 ERA.
Especially stifling against lefties, he held them to a .208 average
Drafted in the third round by the
Royals in 1997, he offers experience as a starter, set up man, and closer. In 74 games for the Cincinnati Reds, the
30-year-old posted a 3.33 ERA while striking out 80 batters in 78 innings. As effective at retiring righties as
lefties, right-handed batters hit .255 against while left-handed batters hit
.269. The Reds do hold a three
million dollar option on his contract.
Affeldt has created the Jeremy Affeldt Foundation with the mission of
providing ministries with the assets and funds to accomplish their goals.
The 31-year-old is coming off his
best-ever year in which he posted a career-low 2.02 ERA pitching for the
National League West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. A situational lefty, Beimel made 71
appearances totaling 49 innings.
Left-handed hitters posted a .271 average against him.
Though he finished with an ERA
close to five, he was effective at getting out lefties, .232 average
against. In a Cardinal bullpen that
is filled with youth, could be the veteran stabilizing force that Russ Springer has provided in the
past. Embree will turn 39 in
January and has made 846 appearances.
The Athletics do hold a three million dollar club option.
The 36-year-old was downright
awful in 19 games for the Cubs, posting a 7.15 ERA and allowing a .326 batting
average against. His career got a
big boost after he was released and caught on with the Phillies. In 19 games for the National League
champions, Eyre allowed a .163 average against and a 1.88 ERA.
A once prized prospect that has
since bounced around teams and leagues, Fossum found himself with the Detroit Tigers in 2008. In 31 games, Fossum
was tagged with a 5.66 ERA. On a
positive note, he did do a fairly good job against left-handers, holding them to
a .243 average. Fossum enjoyed a
good July when he posted a 2.03 ERA in 13.1 innings.
Though he made 19 starts with the
Marlins, Hendrickson was much more effective out of the team’s bullpen. In 17 appearances, he posted a 3.03 ERA,
better than three runs better than in games he started. The 6-foot-9 hurler held left-handed
hitters to a .248 average.
The Dominican was better against
right-handers than against lefties.
Right-handed hitters batted only .196 against him while lefties hit
.247. In 73 games between Pittsburgh and New York, Marte posted a 5-3 record and a 4.02
ERA. The 33-year-old did pick up
five saves while in the National League.
One detractor could be that he is a possible Type A free agent.
Considered the prize by some as
far as left-handed relievers to be hitting the market, Ohman enjoyed a fantastic
season with the Atlanta Braves.
Overall, the 31-year-old was 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA. In 83 games, the Pepperdine alum held
left-handed hitters to a .200 average while right-handers hit .256 against
The 38-year-old was a key
component in a fantastic Angels’ bullpen that won the American League West. Oliver posted a 7-1 record with a 2.88
ERA in 72 innings. The Kansas City, Missouri, native held left-handed hitters to a
.229 batting average against last season.
The biggest draw back in the returning the former Cardinal to St. Louis is that he is
speculated to be a Type A free agent.
After signing a minor league
contract with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2008 season, Parrish found
himself in 13 games including six starts for the Blue Jays this past
season. In seven games out of the
bullpen, the 30-year-old posted a 1.46 ERA. Caution should be taken as Parrish
allowed lefties a .305 batting average against.
The veteran of over 500 major
league games put together another tremendous season for the Minnesota Twins. Reyes held left-handed
hitters to a .202 average while finishing his season with a 2.33 ERA in 75
games. In 2006, the native of
Mexico was one of the best relievers
in baseball. In 66 games, he posted
an incredible 0.89 ERA.
Finishing up a one year,
two-million-dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers. Quietly put together a solid season in a
shaky Brewer bullpen. In 69 games,
Shouse went 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA.
The Effingham, Illinois, native was brutal to left-handed
hitters, holding them to a .180 average.
Some other names that might be
worth a look if healthy are Tom Martin,
Aaron Fultz, and Dave Williams. None of the three
played in the Major Leagues in 2008.
As minor league free agents and
non-tendered candidates become more clear, check back here at The Birdhouse for
more candidates for a revamped left-side of the Cardinals’ bullpen for
Dustin Mattison can be reached via
email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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