SAN FRANCISCO -- In response to questions about the status of closer Ryan Franklin, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has a question of his own: Who's better?
Franklin has three blown saves in four chances, already topping his total in 29 save opportunities in 2010. In each of the last two games, he's been partly a victim of circumstance, as balls that perhaps ought to have gone for outs did not. Still, Franklin has allowed nine baserunners in 3 2/3 innings, not a good ratio.
La Russa acknowledged that it's been a rough go for Franklin and didn't dismiss the questions out of hand. But to his eye, Franklin remains the club's best option in the ninth inning. The veteran righty was considered unavailable for Sunday's game after working extensively in the previous two games, but as soon as Monday, he would be the choice for a save chance.
"I don't see anything that's changed between anybody that's his competition," La Russa said. "I think Miguel [Batista] has done that, too, at times, but he also has a valuable role in other things. I think Mitchell [Boggs] and Jason [Motte] have bright futures, and they're developing in that role. Are they as ready as they're going to be? The answer is no."
Both pitching coach Dave Duncan and La Russa emphasized that they've seen a great deal to like from Franklin thus far. As much as anything, though, the issue from the club's perspective comes down to a simple belief that Franklin is their best option.
"Somebody's got to come up with somebody that's better on our club right now," La Russa said. "The fact is that right now those young guys aren't better."