Cardinals bullpen full of pitchers with closing experience
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) With a fastball in the triple digits that wows the crowd and overwhelms opponents, Trevor Rosenthal is set for another big year as the closer for the Cardinals.
Just in case he needs some help, the St. Louis bullpen is full of pitchers with some experience in that role, too.
Jonathon Broxton was an All-Star closer for the Dodgers in 2009 and 2010. Jordan Walden recorded 32 saves with the Angels in 2011. Newly signed Seung Hwan Oh closed while playing in Korea and Japan.
Plus, setup man Kevin Siegrist posted six saves last season while topping the majors with 81 appearances.
''It looks like this year we have some really good options,'' manager Mike Matheny said. ''As Kevin has kind of progressed, we've seen so much consistency. We've seen how good he can be late in the game and have given him opportunities to close it out.''
''We know Broxton can do that. We know Walden can do that. We know Oh has done that overseas and I'm anxious to see how he handles whatever role. All those guys combined give us some flexibility to maybe give Trevor a rest,'' he said.
Finding a set role for Broxton, Walden and Oh is one of Matheny's tasks this spring. Walden came to the Cardinals prior to last season as part of the trade that brought Jason Heyward to St. Louis.
Walden allowed only one earned run in 12 appearances to begin last season, but then missed the remainder of the year with a shoulder injury. Early indications are that Walden looks ready to go.
''Same guy,'' Matheny said. ''Good arm. Good stuff. His deal is health. He's got to stay healthy. So far he keeps taking the rubber. We want to keep handing him the ball and see how it goes.''
Walden and Broxton aren't quite the same pitchers they once were. Yet the duo, along with Ho, agree that having the experience as a closer makes them better pitchers regardless of which inning they are ultimately called upon.
''It helps out tremendously because you've had those times where the game is on the line,'' Broxton said. ''As a closer there's nobody else behind you. It's yours to win or to lose.''
Even though Walden, Broxton and Ho won't pitch in many late-game situations early in the spring, the way they perform in earlier innings of Grapefruit League games - when they face major league bats before the veterans head for an early shower - will go a long way to determining how Matheny will set up his bullpen.
''It comes down to more of what we see, the eye test of how it looks and how (opposing hitters) are responding,'' Matheny said. ''It's a great problem to have, to have some of that competition.''
Rosenthal anchored a 2015 Cardinals bullpen that produced a 2.82 ERA, third best in the majors behind Pittsburgh and Kansas City.
The right-hander has saved 93 games over the past two seasons. In 2013, when Rosenthal took over for a worn-down Edward Mujica late in the season, he saved more games in the postseason during the Cardinals' run to the World Series, four, than he did in the regular season.
''It's crazy because the job that I have coming in in the ninth inning is probably the one job on the team where how I perform, good or bad, directly dictates the outcome of the game,'' Rosenthal said. ''If I have a lot of saves it's usually a pretty good year.''
Rosenthal had 48 saves last season, second most in the majors behind only Mark Melancon of Pittsburgh.
And at only 25, Rosenthal is still developing as a pitcher.
''His repertoire is getting bigger and better - where he's using the breaking ball, he's using the changeup and he's using them in big counts and behind in the count, and that's pretty rare,'' Matheny said.