General manager John Mozeliak reiterated Thursday that there's a good chance St. Louis will turn in-house for its closer in '09.
"I think I've made it very clear that I'm comfortable with what we have [in the ninth inning]," Mozeliak said. "We did say that if we could find somebody like [Brian] Fuentes, that we thought there was value and talent in return, we would try to do it. But that didn't happen. We're very comfortable going with what we have in-house."
That means that barring an acquisition, candidates for the ninth-inning job will include youngsters Chris Perez and Jason Motte, and conceivably veteran Ryan Franklin as well. Manager Tony La Russa has repeatedly expressed a reluctance to hand closing duties to Perez or Motte.
However, it's not all that likely that he'll have many other options. The Cardinals do have interest in some relievers on the free-agent market, including Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz, and a deal could still be had on one of them.
Another free agent drawing interest from a variety of clubs is former Nationals closer Chad Cordero. According to a Major League source, Cordero threw off flat ground for teams Wednesday and will do so again Friday.
The Cardinals were one of the teams watching Cordero, but their interest could be better classified as curiosity rather than rapt intrigue. Cordero, returning from a shoulder injury, hopes to begin throwing off a mound in February.
Still, most outside possibilities seem like long shots. Mozeliak acknowledged that, as La Russa discussed Monday, the club had discussed signing a free-agent starter and converting that pitcher to closing. The GM downplayed the likelihood of such a move, though.
"We were discussing throwing everything on the table, and if anybody had any ideas or thoughts on how we could possibly address one or the other need," Mozeliak said, referring to the Cards' desire to bolster their starting pitching and find a ninth-inning pitcher. "That was one idea that came up -- are there any pitchers out there that we could identify that have been traditionally used as starters who we could use to close?"
But those discussions don't mean that any such move is imminent, or even likely.
Another long-shot option that has been bandied about is the use of Chris Carpenter in the ninth inning. However, echoing La Russa's sentiments from Monday, Mozeliak emphasized that if Carpenter is healthy enough to start, he will start. The right-hander will only pitch out of the bullpen if there is a compelling medical reason to use him there rather than in the rotation.
Likewise, he shot down a question as to whether the club has entertained any thought of moving Adam Wainwright back to relief.
"That has not come up," he said.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.