Izzy To Face Hitters For The First Time Soon

St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen blew a career-high 10 saves in 43 opportunities last season before finally being shut down to have hip surgery in September. He is scheduled to face live hitters for the first time this spring next Tuesday.

The Cardinals closer finished last season with He was 4-8 with a 3.55 ERA and 33 saves in 59 games before he had to have season ending surgery.

This spring he has been limited to a couple of bullpen sessions each week as he tries to work his way back into shape to be ready to start the season on time.

"Izzy's going to throw one more [bullpen session] -- it's going to be a light side [session] -- and then probably on Tuesday he'll face some hitters," pitching coach Dave Duncan told reporters Friday.

Isringhausen has been tentatively scheduled to appear in his first spring game on March 15, and according to sources within the Cardinals organization, they believe that his availability for Opening Day appears to be very promising.

If he can get ready by opening day that will go a long way toward stabilizing the bullpen and rotation.

Isringhausen was recently ranked by www.thestlcardinals.com as the #38 Cardinal of all-time. His 173 saves in a Cardinal uniform makes him the team's All-Time saves leader ahead of Lee Smith, who comes in second with 160 saves. From 2002-2005, Jason racked up 207 saves for the third best record in the Major Leagues.

The closer is signed through the 2007 season with a club option for $8 million for the 2008 season or a buy out for $1,250,000 for next season.

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