But Ryan Franklin is the primary reason the Cardinals are sitting at 3-6. The goateed closer has a 9.82 ERA and has already blown three save opportunities. Franklin's stuff was never really closer-worthy to begin with (his 5.82 K/9 was last among closers with at least 10 saves in 2010) and it's possible the law of averages is finally catching up with him.
To his credit, Franklin is not solely to blame for the botched saves. If Colby Rasmus had caught Miguel Tejada's ninth-inning shot to center field on Saturday, Franklin would be sitting on a .500 save percentage. For what it's worth, Tony La Russa publicly backed his closer on Sunday, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that Franklin remains the Cardinals stopper for the immediate future.
But what happens when La Russa's patience runs out? The obvious solution would be to turn to Jason Motte, who's been hailed as the closer-in-waiting for years, or Mitchell Boggs. La Russa, however, doesn't seem keen on either, telling the Post-Dispatch, "I think Mitchell and Jason have bright futures and they're developing in that role. Are they as ready as they're going to be? The answer is no."
So who's left? One trendy pick is 40-year-old Miguel Batista. Batista does have prior closing experience (he saved 31 games for the Blue Jays in 2005) but he doesn't have a closer's repertoire either.
If the Redbirds make a move, Motte still seems like the best bet. He's young and he has the best skill set of any reliever in the Cardinals' bullpen.
What other bullpens are in flux? Let's look around the league:
Mariano RiveraHeath BellNeftali Feliz
Even at 41-years old, Rivera is peerless in the ninth inning. He leads the AL in saves (four) and should do so all season long. ... It looks like the Rangers made the right choice keeping Feliz in the bullpen. In six appearances he's allowed just three base runners.
Brian WilsonCarlos MarmolJonathan PapelbonJoakim SoriaFrancisco Rodriguez
Since returning from the disabled list, Wilson has allowed five earned runs and four hits while retiring only four hitters. He's still working his way into form and should be fine going forward. Buy low if you can. ... Because of the Red Sox's early-season struggles, Papelbon hasn't had many save chances. But he looks locked in, having struck out seven batters in three innings thus far.
Jonathan BroxtonJoel HanrahanChris PerezHuston StreetJoe NathanJose ValverdeJohn AxfordCraig KimbrelLeo NunezFrancisco CorderoBrandon LyonJ.J. Putz
The Indians are a surprising 8-2, and Perez is a big reason why. The Tribe won't keep it up, but Perez is starting to look like a top 10 closer regardless. ... After a shaky first appearance, Nathan is rounding into form. He has yet to pitch in back-to-back games though. ... Since blowing a save on Opening Day, Axford has been a perfect three-for-three. With Takashi Saito banged up, Axford has a firm grasp on the closer role. ... Though he still sports an 11.57 ERA, there's no question Lyon is the man in Houston. He's forced eight ground balls in 2.1 innings.
Brandon LeagueKevin GreggJordan WaldenJose ContrerasBrian FuentesMatt ThorntonJon RauchKyle FarnsworthSean BurnettRyan Franklin
Mike Scioscia named Walden the closer on April 5, but Fernando Rodney got the save opportunity Sunday night. Write this off to fatigue (Walden pitched back-to-back games during the week), not a change in the hierarchy. ... Thornton might be cursed. He imploded on April 8, allowing five runs in less than an inning, and blew his third save Monday after Juan Pierre dropped a sure out in left. This will be a closer-by-committee going forward, but Chris Sale has the best stuff. He's the one to own. ... The Blue Jays activated Ocatvio Dotel, but Jon Rauch remains the closer. It might be a different story when Frank Francisco is activated. ... With Jake McGee struggling, hard-throwing Kyle Farnsworth has seized the ninth-inning job in Tampa Bay. Add him if he's available in your league.
Brad LidgeDavid AardsmaAndrew BaileyFrank Francisco
Aardsma will throw a simulated inning this week and appears on track for an early May return. ... Bailey completed his first bullpen session on Monday, and he supposedly looked great. Look for him to return in late April.
Backups who will ensure you're banking saves even if your closer goes down