04/29/2013 10:06 PM ET
With Rzepczynski gone, Choate only lefty in bullpen
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Mike Matheny has made his preference on bullpen makeup known several times during his two seasons as manager. In an ideal scenario, he has said, he'd prefer to keep two lefties -- but not if it comes at the expense of weakening the 'pen.
The club's decision to option out Marc Rzepczynski on Monday leaves the Cardinals with only one lefty reliever. And that left-hander -- Randy Choate -- is used exclusively as a lefty-on-lefty specialist. In eight relief appearances, Choate has faced only 11 hitters. That is reflective of his narrowly defined role.
Although the Cardinals played the majority of the 2012 season with Rzepczynski as the lone lefty reliever, the current series against the Reds could produce a scenario in which the limited lefty options handcuff Matheny. Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker separates left-handed sluggers Joey Votto and Jay Bruce with the right-handed-hitting Brandon Phillips, meaning Matheny will have to be very particular about when he employs Choate.
General manager John Mozeliak added that the continued deep outings by the starting pitchers made him more comfortable in leaving the bullpen with only one lefty.
Cardinals add Maness to bullpen
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' problematic bullpen got a fresh face on Monday, as right-hander Seth Maness was in uniform (No. 61) for the start of the club's series against the Reds.
Lefty Marc Rzepczynski was optioned to Triple-A in order to create space on the 25-man roster. Maness, who was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, also had to be added to the 40-man roster, which is now full.
Initially scheduled to start for Memphis on Monday, Maness was told after Sunday's doubleheader that he'd instead be spending the evening available out of the Cardinals' bullpen. This is his first Major League callup.
"It's quite a feeling, a rush, a lot of emotions running through you, for sure," Maness said. "I'm just happy to be here."
The 24-year-old Maness went 14-4 with a 2.97 ERA last season, which he began in Class A Palm Beach and finished with Double-A Springfield. That earned him a non-roster invitation to Spring Training this year. He was then placed in Triple-A Memphis' rotation to start the season.
In his first four Triple-A starts, spanning 25 innings, Maness allowed 12 earned runs on 34 hits. He recorded 18 strikeouts while walking three. He entered the season with a career 10:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio; he walked only 10 in 169 2/3 innings last season.
"I think it's something I've been trying to do my whole life -- just filling up the zone," Maness said. "I used to play a little bit of middle infield, and I used to hate pitchers out there walking people. It keeps you busy. and they're more likely to make the plays behind you."
"You can't help but look at his splits and be impressed with what he's been able to do so far in his career," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's not just a strikethrower. He has good stuff, too."
Matheny got an up-close look at Maness during Spring Training, when Maness had the opportunity to adjust to pitching out of the bullpen. Of his 46 career Minor League appearances, 38 have come as a starter.
In deciding who would take Rzepczynski's place on the 25-man roster, the Cardinals liked the fact that Maness was fresh (he last pitched on April 22) and could serve as a long reliever. He will not, however, be pigeonholed into such a role.
The Cardinals' willingness to dip into Memphis' rotation to find big league bullpen help could have led them to other candidates. Lefty John Gast has not allowed an earned run in 29 2/3 innings this season, but he started on Sunday and therefore isn't able to pitch for several days. The Cardinals were also not ready to summon highly touted pitching prospect Michael Wacha, just yet.
"He was pitching in college a year ago," general manager John Mozeliak said of Wacha, the club's top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. "He's getting his feet wet. He's doing great. He had a wonderful spring. and so far he's had a very nice season. But in terms of pitching in professional baseball, it's new to him."
Boggs working through period of frustration
ST. LOUIS -- Although it had become evident that a bullpen shakeup was needed following a weekend in which the relief corps allowed 11 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, the Cardinals seemingly had several candidates to consider for a demotion. Among them was Mitchell Boggs, whose month has spiraled into a pit of frustration.
Boggs lost the closer's job after blowing two saves and losing another. He has since slipped entirely out of a setup role, too. His ERA sits at 12.66 after he was charged with three earned runs in two-thirds of an inning on Sunday.
General manager John Mozeliak was asked to offer his opinion on just how long the Cardinals could afford to give Boggs a chance to work through his struggles at the Major League level.
"When someone has done something for you in the past, how much time or rope do you give him?" Mozeliak said of Boggs, who led the National League lead in holds last year, with 34. "In Boggs' case, he certainly has had some tough luck, but I think he also knows that he has to get it done. I talked to the staff yesterday, and they definitely feel like from a pure pitching standpoint that he's throwing the ball better. Unfortunately, the results weren't all that much different. We're going to try to be patient with it, but it's a legitimate question: How long? I don't know."
Results aside, both Boggs and manager Mike Matheny noted that Sunday's appearance did have some positives. The three baserunners Boggs allowed reached on a broken-bat hit, a bloop single and a walk to a batter he was deliberately pitching around. A weak grounder scored one run before Marc Rzepczynski allowed two inherited runners to score.
"I thought yesterday was as close as we've seen him here for a while," Matheny said of Boggs. "One thing compounded into another, but he's close. That doesn't help him and doesn't help us, because close doesn't really work. But we do know that as we're watching everything, that it's a step. We need to get him right. Hopefully, he finds it soon."
• Hours after Sports Illustrated published a story in which NBA center Jason Collins announced that he is gay, the topic of gay athletes in professional sports was addressed by general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny. Collins is the first active athlete in any of the country's four major sports leagues to come out.
"I think you have to admire his courage for coming out," Mozeliak said. "I think people are much more tolerant than they were in the past and much more accepting. I can't speak for 25 men [in the clubhouse], I haven't asked them. But I would assume that day's coming in baseball."
Matheny was more hesitant to speak on the topic, but still did so briefly.
"Just like we had the subject come up about not having any black players when we celebrated Jackie Robinson Day -- that's just not something we measure our guys by," Matheny said. "That was part of Martin Luther King's dream, that people would never be judged by the color of their skin. People make choices that we try not to condemn anybody for."
• Outfielder Carlos Beltran was held out of the lineup on Monday, as he was weak following an extended bout with a stomach illness. Matheny said that Beltran is improving but is still trying to regain some lost strength. Beltran has been sick since Thursday.
• Outfielder Mike O'Neill was named the Texas League's Player of the Week after going 11-for-20 from April 22-28. In Double-A Springfield's doubleheader on Sunday, O'Neill reached base in all eight plate appearances.
• Mozeliak said that Maikel Cleto will likely take Seth Maness' spot in the Triple-A rotation for now. Cleto has pitched nine innings in relief this season. Michael Wacha's start was moved up a day, to Monday, to compensate for Maness' departure.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.