For now, Boggs getting call in ninth inning

Hard-throwing Mitchell Boggs is perfect in his three save

chances since the St. Louis Cardinals demoted closer Ryan Franklin

last week.

Heading into a six-game trip that begins Tuesday at Houston,

manager Tony La Russa insists nothing has changed in the pecking

order. The official line from the top: Franklin’s responsibilities

are still being reduced to help get him back on track.

”Just watch the game,” La Russa said. ”We’re trying not to

use him at the end of games but he’s part of our bullpen.”

La Russa is obviously saving Boggs for the last three outs but

won’t anoint the right-hander, who has eight consecutive scoreless

appearances since allowing two runs on opening day.

Boggs can be intimidating with a mid-90s fastball and has 15

strikeouts in 12 1-3 innings. He is more of a typical closer than

the 38-year-old Franklin, who before this season had been

successful pitching to contact in hopes of inducing ground-ball

outs.

Boggs just keeps his head down and waits for the call.

”I know what my role on this team is and that’s to show up and

prepare myself to pitch at any point every single night,” Boggs

said after finishing off the Reds in a 3-0 victory on Sunday.

The 27-year-old Boggs was a fifth-round pick in 2006 out of

Georgia, and played one season of college football at Chattanooga.

He made 61 appearances last year in his first full season in the

majors, mostly in middle relief.

So far he’s risen to the top of a relief corps that, aside from

Franklin, is off to an impressive start.

Jason Motte, the likely backup closer option while the situation

is in flux, has a fastball in the high 90s and has six straight

scoreless outings. Rookie righty Eduardo Sanchez has 12 strikeouts

in seven scoreless innings. Fernando Salas has permitted one run in

six innings.

Trever Miller, the lone left-hander, leads the team with nine

appearances and has a 1.86 ERA, although he walked Jay Bruce with

the bases loaded for a blown save Saturday.

”I think we all believe we can be a strength of this team,”

Boggs said. ”There’s a lot of guys who are really talented, I

don’t see why we can’t be a strong point.”

La Russa has always asserted that closer is perhaps the most

important job on the team, and Boggs is getting a good sense of the

ninth-inning spotlight.

”You’re trying to go after guys with everything you’ve got,”

he said.

Franklin blew four of his first five save chances, a stretch

that looks much worse because of two games in which the defense let

him down. But he also has a 7.88 ERA and has surrendered four

homers in eight innings while allowing 15 baserunners.

Franklin shaved off half of his distinctive chin beard a week

ago to change his luck and sported a clean-shaven look for the

finale of a six-game homestand on Sunday. So far, it’s been more of

the same for a pitcher who converted 27 for 29 save opportunities

last year and was an All-Star in 2009.

Franklin yielded a tiebreaking, two-run single to Miguel Cairo

on an 0-2 pitch in the eighth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Reds on

Saturday. After retiring four straight batters in the seventh and

eighth in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday, Franklin

gave up a long homer by Laynce Nix and got booed by the home crowd

fans, prompting him to lash out and then apologize by the end of

the day.