This is the final installment in a six-part Around the Horn series that has taken a position-by-position look at the Cardinals' projected starters and backup options heading into Spring Training. After previously highlighting the club's catchers, infielders (middle and corner), outfielders and starting pitchers, let's wrap up with an examination of the team's relief options.
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals, though not exceptionally active this winter, did prioritize a bullpen rebuild in hopes of avoiding the same workload issues that cost the club late last season.
After asking Kevin Siegrist to make 81 regular-season appearances and leaning on Seth Maness to pitch in a career-high 76 games, the Cardinals sought to bolster the back-end of their 'pen so that manager Mike Matheny could better disperse the late-inning workload ahead of closer Trevor Rosenthal.
The club did that with a pair of winter acquisitions, first re-signing Jonathan Broxton to a two-year contract in December, and then plucking right-hander Seung Hwan Oh from Asia last month. Both are former closers, with Oh having logged 357 career saves while pitching professionally in Korea and Japan over the past 11 seasons.
In St. Louis, they'll join Siegrist, Maness and Jordan Walden as a bridge to the closer.
"Every year seems to have its ups and downs in terms of injury and health risk," general manager John Mozeliak said, speaking specifically of the bullpen. "Basically, what we were trying to accomplish this offseason was trying to find a way to mitigate that."
The signings were also needed given the lingering questions regarding Walden's health. Although initially overshadowed by Jason Heyward after a November 2014 trade landed both in St. Louis, Walden opened last season as the team's primary eighth-inning setup man. He allowed one run over his first 12 appearances, but then didn't pitch again.
What was initially believed to be a rotator cuff and right biceps injury that could heal in a few months never did. Walden had to halt a July rehab program and then shut down for the season while opting against surgery. Although reports on his recovery this winter have been encouraging, the Cardinals won't know how Walden's arm responds until the righty pitches regularly this spring.
"Even though reports have been extremely positive on Walden, I still feel like April or May, if we were to be exposed, we would have a problem," Mozeliak said. "I'd rather have the depth there and create our own flexibility internally than just ignore it."
Siegrist will again serve as the team's late-inning lefty, while Maness has found his niche as a ground-ball specialist. Both will help turn games over to Rosenthal, who saved a franchise-record 48 games in 2015.
While those six bullpen spots seem settled -- barring injury, of course -- the Cardinals will have one up for grabs this spring. It'll likely go to someone who can cover multiple innings, filling the role Carlos Villanueva held in 2015. Lefty starters Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales will each be considered, as will Rule 5 Draft right-hander Matt Bowman. Lyons could have an advantage for that spot given that he is out of Minor League options.