ST. LOUIS -- Jason Isringhausen pitched three times after cutting his pitching hand, apparently from striking a television in frustration, before the St. Louis Cardinals placed their bedraggled closer on the 15-day disabled list.
The team admitted on Friday that the injury made for an easier decision about what to do with Isringhausen, their ninth-inning specialist since 2001 but with six blown saves in 17 chances and an 8.00 ERA. The move came a day after Isringhausen gave up a three-run, go-ahead home run to Jason Bay in the eighth inning of an 11-5 loss to the Pirates, although Isringhausen worked a pair of scoreless innings earlier in the week.
"You know what? He's not effective right now, so something's bothering him," general manager John Mozeliak said. "I think medically right now, that's part of it.
"Are there other aspects that are affecting him as well? I'm sure there are."
Manager Tony La Russa characterized the cut as an "aggravation" for the 35-year-old Isringhausen, who was not at Busch Stadium after requesting an examination by a team physician earlier in the day.
"It was irritating when he threw and it got infected," La Russa said. "It's not his biggest issue, but it probably would have shut him down for a few days."
Isringhausen was 32-for-34 in save opportunities last year, a season after he missed the team's World Series run because of hip surgery. He's been stuck on 292 career saves since May 5, absorbing three losses and three blown saves in his last five outings, and lasted only 1/3 of an inning on Thursday.
Isringhausen and La Russa have said repeatedly that the pitcher's problems are not physical, but now say they've been referring to the hip. That also was checked out during the exam, and Mozeliak reiterated that the hip was not a concern.
The team purchased the contract of rookie right-hander Chris Perez, the closer at Triple-A Memphis, and transferred right-handed reliever Josh Kinney from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list. Kinney is recovering from elbow surgery.
The 22-year-old Perez is 1-1 with eight saves and a 2.04 ERA in 18 games in the minors, with 22 strikeouts and nine walks in 17 2/3 innings. He'll likely be used as one of a group of setup men for stand-in closer Ryan Franklin, who had two saves in four chances entering Friday night's interleague game against the Rays.
Perez was close to getting called up after Isringhausen's self-inflicted wound last weekend, purchasing a ticket to Milwaukee where the Cardinals were playing, before Isringhausen assured the team he would be able to pitch. Mozeliak said the cut on Isringhausen's hand has gotten worse since then.
Perez found out he would be making his major league debut during batting practice Thursday night while with Memphis, and was held out of that game. When manager Chris Maloney gave him the news, Perez said, "I looked at him twice and said 'Are you sure this time?' "
Perez' numbers reinforced a positive impact made in spring training, when he was 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in nine games with 10 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings. He last pitched Tuesday.
"I put as much stock in how he handled himself in spring training, when he knew he was being looked at closely," La Russa said. "He didn't faint."
Assurances from Kyle Lohse, who skipped his bullpen session on Thursday due to tightness in the back of his shoulder, that he'll be able to make his start on Sunday should provide further relief for the staff. One of the reasons La Russa was forced to use Isringhausen in a one-run game was that he was holding rookie right-hander Mike Parisi in case Lohse couldn't go.
Lohse was surprised by the level of concern, saying it was something pitchers deal with.
"You're going to have little things come up and I've never missed a start due to injury and never been on the DL," Lohse said. "I think the track record kind of speaks for itself that I'll be ready on my day."