Rebuilding the Cardinals Bullpen: Southpaws

The St. Louis Cardinals will begin to rebuild their bullpen with a revamping of left-handed relief.

This week, the St. Louis Cardinals began to rebuild a bullpen that allowed 31 blown saves in 2008.  One of the weakest links in the team's pen was the inability to find consistency from its left-handed relievers.  Ron Villone posted an ERA of 4.68 and Randy Flores was demoted back to the minor leagues. 


General Manager John Mozeliak and staff began to reconstruct the bullpen by claiming Charlie Manning off waivers from the Washington Nationals.  In his rookie season of 2008, the southpaw allowed left-handed hitters only a .203 batting average against. 


As the team continues to improve the bullpen, here is a look at candidates from within as well as possible free agent targets. 



In House Candidates


Ron Villone signed a minor league contract before the 2008 season but would appear in 74 big league games in 2008.  The 38-year-old did hold left-handed hitters to a .176 average but righties tagged him for a .300 mark.  Villone is a free agent and early indications make it appear there may not be a lot of interest in bringing him back. 


After excelling in the 2006 post-season, Randy Flores is coming off an abysmal 2008 that included a trip back to the minor leagues.  In 43 games for the Cardinals, the opposition batted .315 against him, including a .314 average against left-handers.   Like Villone, interest in Flores may be waning plus Flores had shoulder surgery at the end of September.  He is under organizational control if the Cardinals want him back.


Jaime Garcia appeared in 10 games as a rookie but will be lost for 2009 due to Tommy John surgery.  Tyler Johnson had shoulder surgery during 2008 and his status for the upcoming season is uncertain. 


The Cardinals sent three left-handers to the Arizona Fall League to show their stuff, possibly to compete to fill a spot in the 2009 major league bullpen. 


St. Louis native Tyler Norrick appeared in only six games due to injury in 2008.  The 25-year-old goes to the desert to try and jump-start his career after a sensational 2007 at Palm Beach.  In three games for Peoria, Norrick has allowed one earned run and struck out five in 4.2 innings.


Brad Furnish struggled to find any consistency at Palm Beach, posting an 8-8 record with an ERA over five.  After a promotion to Double-A Springfield, the 23-year-old posted a superb 1.64 ERA and allowed Texas League hitters only a .221 average.  After being tagged with two runs in his first outing of the Fall League, the Texan has spun 2.1 shutout innings while striking out three. 


An independent league find, Justin Fiske started the 2008 season at the Quad Cities as a reliever and would end his season in Double-A as a starter.  In 26 games including 10 starts for Springfield, the 5-foot-11 hurler posted a 4-0 record to go along with a 2.97 ERA.  Especially stifling against lefties, he held them to a .208 average against. 


Free Agents 


Jeremy Affeldt


Drafted in the third round by the Royals in 1997, he offers experience as a starter, set up man, and closer.  In 74 games for the Cincinnati Reds, the 30-year-old posted a 3.33 ERA while striking out 80 batters in 78 innings.  As effective at retiring righties as lefties, right-handed batters hit .255 against while left-handed batters hit .269.  The Reds do hold a three million dollar option on his contract.  Affeldt has created the Jeremy Affeldt Foundation with the mission of providing ministries with the assets and funds to accomplish their goals. 


Joe Beimel


The 31-year-old is coming off his best-ever year in which he posted a career-low 2.02 ERA pitching for the National League West Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.  A situational lefty, Beimel made 71 appearances totaling 49 innings.  Left-handed hitters posted a .271 average against him. 


Alan Embree


Though he finished with an ERA close to five, he was effective at getting out lefties, .232 average against.  In a Cardinal bullpen that is filled with youth, could be the veteran stabilizing force that Russ Springer has provided in the past.  Embree will turn 39 in January and has made 846 appearances.  The Athletics do hold a three million dollar club option. 


Scott Eyre


The 36-year-old was downright awful in 19 games for the Cubs, posting a 7.15 ERA and allowing a .326 batting average against.  His career got a big boost after he was released and caught on with the Phillies.  In 19 games for the National League champions, Eyre allowed a .163 average against and a 1.88 ERA. 


Casey Fossum


A once prized prospect that has since bounced around teams and leagues, Fossum found himself with the Detroit Tigers in 2008.  In 31 games, Fossum was tagged with a 5.66 ERA.  On a positive note, he did do a fairly good job against left-handers, holding them to a .243 average.  Fossum enjoyed a good July when he posted a 2.03 ERA in 13.1 innings. 


Mark Hendrickson


Though he made 19 starts with the Marlins, Hendrickson was much more effective out of the team's bullpen.  In 17 appearances, he posted a 3.03 ERA, better than three runs better than in games he started.  The 6-foot-9 hurler held left-handed hitters to a .248 average. 


Damaso Marte


The Dominican was better against right-handers than against lefties.  Right-handed hitters batted only .196 against him while lefties hit .247.  In 73 games between Pittsburgh and New York, Marte posted a 5-3 record and a 4.02 ERA.  The 33-year-old did pick up five saves while in the National League.  One detractor could be that he is a possible Type A free agent. 


Will Ohman


Considered the prize by some as far as left-handed relievers to be hitting the market, Ohman enjoyed a fantastic season with the Atlanta Braves.  Overall, the 31-year-old was 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA.  In 83 games, the Pepperdine alum held left-handed hitters to a .200 average while right-handers hit .256 against him. 


Darren Oliver 


The 38-year-old was a key component in a fantastic Angels' bullpen that won the American League West.  Oliver posted a 7-1 record with a 2.88 ERA in 72 innings.  The Kansas City, Missouri, native held left-handed hitters to a .229 batting average against last season.  The biggest draw back in the returning the former Cardinal to St. Louis is that he is speculated to be a Type A free agent. 


John Parrish


After signing a minor league contract with the Toronto Blue Jays before the 2008 season, Parrish found himself in 13 games including six starts for the Blue Jays this past season.  In seven games out of the bullpen, the 30-year-old posted a 1.46 ERA.  Caution should be taken as Parrish allowed lefties a .305 batting average against.


Dennys Reyes


The veteran of over 500 major league games put together another tremendous season for the Minnesota Twins.  Reyes held left-handed hitters to a .202 average while finishing his season with a 2.33 ERA in 75 games.  In 2006, the native of Mexico was one of the best relievers in baseball.  In 66 games, he posted an incredible 0.89 ERA. 


Brian Shouse


Finishing up a one year, two-million-dollar contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.  Quietly put together a solid season in a shaky Brewer bullpen.  In 69 games, Shouse went 5-1 with a 2.81 ERA.  The Effingham, Illinois, native was brutal to left-handed hitters, holding them to a .180 average. 



Some other names that might be worth a look if healthy are Tom Martin, Aaron Fultz, and Dave Williams.  None of the three played in the Major Leagues in 2008. 


As minor league free agents and non-tendered candidates become more clear, check back here at The Birdhouse for more candidates for a revamped left-side of the Cardinals' bullpen for 2009. 



Dustin Mattison can be reached via email at


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