Franklin's Starting Experience Could Pay Off

Ryan Franklin, 33, started 94 games from 2003-05 in Seattle before the Philadelphia Phillies turned him into a set up man last season. That starting experience could be enough to pave the way for him to break into the rotation this season for St. Louis.

Franklin said he was told there's "plenty of opportunity" when he signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals in January. "There wasn't any guarantees besides Carpenter," Franklin said. "I just look that as a great opportunity coming here and getting back to starting."

Last season, the Phillies moved the reluctant Franklin into the bullpen much to his displeasure: "The whole time, I was seeing them bring up these young guys and guys that hadn't proven themselves to be able to go out there every fifth day and give the team a chance to win." Franklin, who was 1-5 with 4.58 ERA in 46 appearances, was looking for a team to hook up with this winter that would give him a chance to start again.

Prior to signing with the Phillies, Franklin started 94 games with the Seattle Mariners, from 2003-2005, averaging over 201 innings per season, with his best season coming in 2003 when he went 11-13 with a 3.57 ERA.

Franklin had signed a one-year deal with the Phillies expecting to be in the starting rotation. He's expecting the same thing here with the Cardinals, but it won't come any easier in St. Louis than it did in the City of Brotherly Love.

Franklin will be in competition with Braden Looper, Brad Thompson, Josh Kinney and Chris Narveson for the fourth and maybe even the fifth spot in the rotation. Franklin is the only member of the group with any significant experience as a starting pitcher in the majors and on a Tony La Russa managed team, experience always carries a lot of weight when it comes down to making roster decisions.

Franklin, a right-hander, has started 106 games in his career. To put the experience factor into perspective, Franklin's 106 starts is 104 more starts than, Looper (0-GS), Thompson (1-GS), Kinney (0-GS), and Narveson (1-GS) combined.

He believes he will get a fair shot in spring training. "I'm here to work my butt off and do whatever I can to get into that starting rotation. You never know what can happen."

Franklin's contract with the Cardinals provides that he could make an additional $1 million in bonuses based on starts, getting the full amount if he makes 29, so you can be sure that he is properly motivated to break into the rotation.

Unfortunately for Franklin, he may not control his on destiny. There are several factors that come into play as the rotation comes together.

1. Will closer Jason Isringhausen be ready on opening day?

2. Will Adam Wainwright move into the rotation?

3. Does reliever Braden Looper have the edge in the battle for the rotation spot, like pitching coach Dave Duncan has indicated, or is it really an open competition as manager Tony La Russa says?

4. Will Franklin be able to out pitch all the competition for that temporary starting job?

Regardless of what happens in March, Franklin is unlikely to stay in the rotation after Mark Mulder returns from the DL, in June or July.

If Franklin makes the club, he'll likely spend more time pitching out of the bullpen rather than starting again this season, probably much to his displeasure.


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