"I like him as a reliever, we're not really looking at him as a starting pitcher," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "We think he can be an impact reliever for us. He has a power sinker, and he's got the making of a real good slider. If he's had any problems, its a little inconsistency, but based on the latter part of the season last year, where he really came around and was throwing good, we got real excited with the potential of him being a real impact reliever."
Boggs allowed one run on two hits in one inning against the Nationals on Sunday in his third outing of the spring. He struggled in his previous two showings, giving up four runs on seven hits in four innings. His most encouraging stat from those two outings was five strikeouts to no walks.
"You have to adapt a little bit," Boggs said. "There's some differences that happen in the bullpen that don't happen in the rotation. I'm not worried about any type of role, I could care less. I just want to go out there and get guys out. And whenever they ask me to do that, [I'll] try to be ready and be on top of my game, so that's all I can do."
Last season, Boggs was 2-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 16 games. He started nine games.
Most importantly, Boggs improved his control from one year to the next. He had 46 strikeouts to 33 walks in 2009. In eight appearances in 2008, he had just 13 strikeouts to 22 walks.
"I think he has more confidence in himself because of the way he performed for us last year," Duncan said. "I think he proved to himself that he can pitch and get Major League hitters out. So if there's any difference, its just a level of confidence."
Coming out of the bullpen isn't foreign to Boggs. As a pitcher at the University of Georgia, he was used primarily as a reliever. But after being picked by the Cardinals in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Boggs ability cemented him as a starter all the way up through Triple-A.
Aside from one relief appearance at Class A in 2005, Boggs started 102 of 103 games in the Minors, going 40-24 with a 3.79 ERA.
"When I got drafted, they asked me to be a starter," Boggs said. "They asked me if I'd be comfortable doing that. I said, 'Absolutely.' And that was a big part of learning how to pitch in professional baseball. You learn from other guys who have done it before you, and try to take the good and bad they've had, and the good and the bad you've had, and improve and move on it."
But despite Boggs history as a starter in the Minor Leagues, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has complete confidence in his pitching coach's assessment.
"He was a highly-regarded starter with every manager in our system," La Russa said. "Last year when we had to use him that way [as a reliever], he was tough. Not overpowering or untouchable, but he was tough. Dave likes him right now more as a reliever, so were kind of prepping him for our bullpen. But I think, if we have a lot in our bullpen, he can be a starter. He's got that kind of ability."
Tim Walters is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less