Cardinals bullpen doesn't skip a beat with Rosenthal unavailable
ST. LOUIS -- The roles keep shifting for members of the Cardinals' bullpen, but the results haven't changed a bit.
When Trevor Rosenthal began experiencing arm soreness over the weekend, St. Louis relievers responded by lowering their ERA to an MLB-best 1.89. Kevin Siegrist stepped comfortably into the role of closer, holding off the Twins for two 3-2 wins.
Although Minnesota's Kurt Suzuki doubled home an inherited runner on his first pitch against Seth Maness on Tuesday afternoon, the Cardinals' bullpen didn't give up an earned run in 3 2/3 innings against the Twins. The heightened pressure of protecting a one-run lead made those efforts all the more impressive as St. Louis maintained its perfect 34-0 record this season when leading after seven innings.
"They're doing a nice job picking each other up," manager Mike Matheny said. "Just one guy supporting the other one, that's really what you want from your bullpen."
The group has been especially dominant in June, giving up just one earned run in 30 innings. The blemish came near the end of an 11-3 loss at Colorado against Carlos Villanueva, who still has a sparkling 0.75 ERA in 14 appearances.
That's second among Cardinals relievers to Rosenthal, who owns a 0.59 ERA to go with team highs of 21 saves and 30 1/3 innings. He described his injury as a "knot in my bicep" and says while it's been getting better, team doctors want him to wait until he's 100 percent healthy.
"I haven't experienced it too much and I wasn't thinking it was anything super serious, just something different than I had felt in the past," Rosenthal said following Tuesday's win. "I think they're just looking out for my best interests. We've got guys out there that can fill the void for a couple days if we need it, and that's exactly what we've been doing."
He's not surprised at all to see the success of Siegrist, who hasn't given up an earned run in nine appearances so far this month. The left-hander ranks first among all Cardinals pitchers with 12.13 strikeouts per nine innings to go along with a 3-0 record.
Matheny moved Siegrist to the eighth-inning role when Jordan Walden went down in early May, but closing brings some different challenges. Eduardo Nunez nearly tied the game on a double off the left-field wall Tuesday before Siegrist got two routine flyballs for his third save of the season.
"I just feel like the crowd's a little more into it in the ninth, obviously," Siegrist said after Monday's win. "But as far as me preparing for an inning, it's the same as far as the way I think."
His heavy workload of four appearances and 3 1/3 innings over the last five days could mean the Cardinals would have to turn to someone else if Rosenthal still can't pitch and a save situation arises Wednesday night at Minnesota. Matheny said Siegrist went about as long as he could on Tuesday, and Villanueva was ready to go in the bullpen.
Seth Maness also has three saves this season, most recently when he pitched the last 1 1/3 innings of a 5-3 win at Milwaukee on April 25. Matt Belisle could also be an option, considering his 2.00 ERA in 27 innings, often late in close games.
The way this bullpen has pitched so far, Matheny may not have a wrong answer.