http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/cardinals/story/70CD7C4694895DF086257494007E715C?OpenDocumentIzzy returns to closer role
By Joe Strauss
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
ATLANTA -- The Cardinals will attempt to restore order to their long-scrutinized bullpen by going back to what worked last season and in most of five seasons before that.
The ninth inning again belongs to Jason Isringhausen.
Pitching coach Dave Duncan notified Isringhausen early Monday afternoon that he would regain the role he lost more than two months ago when bruised confidence and a self-inflicted hand wound forced him to the disabled list and out of the role that has netted him 292 career saves.
Several minutes after Duncan approached Isringhausen, manager Tony La Russa called Ryan Franklin into his office to inform Franklin that he would be returning to his former role as Isringhausenâ€™s set-up man.
Isringhausen did not say he was surprised by the move but clearly seemed energized by an escape from middle relief.
"This is what Iâ€™ve done for a long time," he said. "Now itâ€™s about me going out and doing it. I donâ€™t want to go too far beyond that, OK?"
Isringhausenâ€™s most recent save came May 5, four days before he landed an open-handed punch to a television in the Miller Park visitors clubhouse. The punch opened a bottle cap-sized wound on the palm of Isringhausenâ€™s pitching hand and contributed to him landing on the disabled list May 13.
Franklin, who never laid claim to the permanent job, said he expected the move after several recent late-inning misadventures.
Franklin allowed the New York Metsâ€™ Fernando Tatis a game-tying home run in Saturdayâ€™s 14-inning win two nights after surrendering a game-winning two-run shot to Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun in last Thursdayâ€™s 4-3 loss.
"In my head, I knew Izzyâ€™s the closer and Iâ€™m just here to fill in until he got ready, which I think he is," Franklin said. "Everybody knows their roles and thatâ€™s when I think our bullpen is the best."
Since taking over as de facto closer, Franklin converted 14 of 20 save chances but had taken damage in five of his last nine appearances. Since July 5, he has allowed 20 hits and 10 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings while converting three of five save chances and suffering two losses. Five of the 20 hits have gone for home runs. Franklin surrendered only three home runs in his first 38 1/3 innings this season.
Isringhausen, 35, made two scoreless appearances in New York. He has converted 11 of 18 save chances this season but appeared more in command since exiting the disabled list June 14. Isringhausen has allowed eight earned runs in 19 innings covering 16 appearances since returning. His overall ERA has dropped from 8.00 to 5.84.