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Closer-by-committee likely in the Cards

Closer-by-committee likely

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ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' plan for attacking the ninth inning has taken yet another turn.

A week after pitching coach Dave Duncan acknowledged the reinstallation of Jason Isringhausen as closer, the job no longer belongs to Isringhausen. The right-hander was charged with three runs in a four-run Dodgers ninth inning on Tuesday night, forcing extra innings in a game the Cards eventually won, 6-4.

One Cardinals player said Wednesday that the club will use a closer "by committee" for the time being. General manager John Mozeliak didn't use that word -- but said something pretty close.

"We don't have one single person who has the title," Mozeliak said on Wednesday afternoon.

Manager Tony La Russa asserted that the club will not funnel ninth-inning leads to any one pitcher.

"I'm going to look at the guys available and piece together whatever the starter leaves, to the best of my ability," La Russa said. "There isn't anybody in that bullpen that couldn't pitch in the ninth inning, in my opinion."

Still, he granted that Tuesday night's blowup was "unacceptable," and that it likely would have an effect on Isringhausen's confidence. As a result, La Russa acknowledged that finding the right spots for Isringhausen to pitch could be a little more challenging.

"I think you've got to be a little bit more careful," La Russa said. "But I think he can get some important assignments."

Isringhausen declined to speak to reporters for the second consecutive day on Wednesday.

Ryan Franklin will likely serve as the primary ninth-inning man, but not the only one. Prior to Isringhausen's re-elevation to closing duties, Franklin was not the set-in-stone, capital-C closer, but he was the main pitcher to receive those chances. He probably will once again receive the plurality of chances, but the situation is more fluid than it was a week or two ago.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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