Isringhausen taken out of closer role for time being

MILWAUKEE -- Jason Isringhausen got his wish.

After blowing his fifth save Friday night -- tying Milwaukee's Eric Gagne for most in the major leagues -- in a 4-3 loss to the Brewers, the Cardinals' embattled reliever will no longer close games, manager Tony La Russa said Saturday.

"He's still prepared to pitch important innings, but for a while we'll try to keep him out of the ninth inning," La Russa said. "There's still going to be games where you can't cherry-pick his situations because if we're playing well, you need your bullpen."

La Russa said the closing duties will be split between Ryan Franklin and Russ Springer, and that he wouldn't shy from using a left-hander in the role against certain lineups.

"We'll mix and match," La Russa said. "I think all things, everyone rested, Franklin and Springer are the guys that match up the best."

Franklin, who had been the setup man, said he hadn't been told what his new role might be, but the right-hander is 1-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 19 appearances this season.

"He gets righties and lefties out, he's very quick off the mound, so he's tough to run on," La Russa said. "He gives you a lot as a guy that's pitching important innings in games."

Isringhausen, who has four blown save opportunities in his last seven appearances and is 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA, said Saturday he met with La Russa and agreed he needed to be pulled from the role.

"It needed to be done," Isringhausen said. "It's a mental break more than anything."

Isringhausen, who leads the National League with 11 saves and is eight saves shy of 300 for his career, was clearly upset after Friday's game, putting all the blame on himself.

"I'm just getting sick of embarrassing myself and letting my team down," he said Friday night. "We should be five more wins in the win column in my mind, so we should be ahead in first place even more. But they can't keep sending me out there when I'm pitching the way I'm pitching.

"We're going to have to figure out some kind of remedy. I'm sure that remedy will give me some time off and get somebody in there that can do a better job right now. ... I'm just pitching like a second-grader."

La Russa told Isringhausen on Saturday that it's no different from when a top hitter is struggling in the lineup. La Russa's only options would be to shuffle the lineup or give a player a few days on the bench.

In Isringhausen's case, La Russa wants to keep him active and fresh, but still give him a mental break from the taxing role of being the closer.

"He's not hurting, he's just pressing and lost his confidence," La Russa said. "You go back to the drawing board a little bit on his delivery so he can locate better, and you give him some appearances and hopefully he gets people out and his confidence goes back up."

Both Isringhausen, who is 23rd on the career saves list, and La Russa believe he'll return to the closer's role once he has time to refocus.

"The last three outs are different, the most difficult," La Russa said. "It takes a special guy to do that. It's true that he's that guy, but we've just got to do what it takes to get him right."