Cardinals might explore closer options if Trevor Rosenthal doesn't find his command

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak was asked before Friday night's game whether the team would consider using its top pitching prospect, Alex Reyes, in relief later this season. After all, a 100-mph fastball can come in handy, particularly late in a season when hitters are exhausted by the daily grind and the heat.

Mozeliak indicated it was unlikely for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the team wants to continue ramping up Reyes' tolerance for the workload needed to be a major league starter. For another, there's no need.

"Clearly, right now, our bullpen's not screaming for help," Mozeliak said.

And there's the danger in discussing a bullpen, the most inconsistent and often maddening part of a baseball team. Five hours later, closer Trevor Rosenthal walked the bases loaded and had to be lifted for the second time this season and the San Francisco Giants broke open a pitchers' duel in the ninth inning for a 5-1 victory at Busch Stadium.

As Mozeliak indicated, the Cardinals' bullpen generally has been an asset. Seung Hwan Oh and Kevin Siegrist have been reliable setup men, and Rosenthal has blown only one of his nine save chances. But Rosenthal's command issues have been considerable. He has walked 16 batters in 17 innings. Last season, he walked 25 batters in 68⅔ innings.

His inability to throw strikes consistently probably has at least spurred discussions about whether Oh or Siegrist should take over closing duties, at least for the short term. The sporadic work can't be helping. The fact Rosenthal has only had nine save chances in 55 games pretty much says it all. The Cardinals have been a strange team this season. They either blow teams out or lose.

Rosenthal, to his credit, didn't blame the inconsistent workload or the fact he was pitching in a non-save situation for another rough outing. He also walked the bases loaded without getting an out May 12 in Anaheim.

"Physically, I don't feel anything. I'm going out there confident," Rosenthal said. "Obviously, the results are saying something a little different. Hopefully I continue to make adjustments and have an opportunity to keep pitching and figure it out. Hopefully I'm back in there tomorrow night."

Every time the Cardinals think they've got everything battened down, something springs a leak this season. Just as their starting pitching finally begins to show signs it can be as good as people thought it would be and the defense levels off, the bullpen has shown signs of strain.

Adam Wainwright (5-4) went seven strong innings for the second outing in a row and the second time this season. He gave up only five hits but four of them came in a span of five batters in the fourth inning. The Cardinals were in easy striking distance, particularly since San Francisco closer Santiago Casilla had blown four saves this season, including his most recent chance. Then, Rosenthal came in and walked the bases loaded, and Dean Kiekhefer gave up a two-run single to Denard Span. That pretty much did it.

"Listen, Trevor's got one of the best arms in the game," Wainwright said. "He's going to be just fine. He’s just got to keep going."