MILWAUKEE – Shortly after Jason Isringhausen blew his fifth save of the season and speculation began as to whether or not he would remain as the Cardinals stopper (see Oops…I did it again), the St. Louis closer had his promised meeting with manager Tony La Russa. And like most professional athletes, he got what he wanted. In this case it was a demotion.


“We’re going to try to give him a mental break, choosing his opportunities a little differently,” La Russa told the team’s website. “I explained to him it’s something you do in the lineup. If your fourth or fifth hitter is struggling, what do you do? Do you sit him for a few days or you put him in a different spot in the lineup? It’s just a change of scenery, so we’re going to try that for a while.”


For now, the role will be filled by either Russ Springer or Ryan Franklin, but it is apparent who the runaway candidate might be.


Franklin leads the National League in holds (12), and on Friday made Milwaukee’s Mike Cameron, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder look like amateurs by retiring them on a total of five pitches before turning the game over to Isringhausen.


Saturday was no different. Lowering his ERA to 1.89, and 1.69 in his last 10.2 innings, Franklin allowed only one hit (a Braun double to left field), while getting Rickie Weeks, Cameron and Fielder to ground out. He threw 14 pitches in the inning and picked up his second save of the season.


“It’s the same thing – you’ve just got to get three outs,” Franklin said following the game. “It doesn’t affect what I do to get three outs. [Isringhausen] is the closer. With him gone, hopefully we can handle the ninth inning until he gets back.”


But if Franklin continues to perform to his proven ability and the Cardinals succeed behind him, will La Russa stay with the League’s leader in holds, or go back to the guy that has held the spot since 2002.


While Izzy is on his mental vacation, Franklin seems like the logical choice to fill the role. He has by far been the best option in the bullpen.


The starting rotation has done its part, only to be let down by closing and middle relief pitchers. Sitting at the top of the NL Central (23-15), the Cardinals starters hold 17-8 combined record. Once Chris Carpenter returns, Matt Clement gets healthy, and if Mark Mulder ever comes back, a new debate will ensue: Which start gets bumped? Adam Wainwright (3-1), Todd Wellemeyer (3-1), Kyle Lohse (3-2), Braden Looper (5-1), or Joel Pineiro (2-2)?




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