Notes: Franklin needs to earn spot

Notes: Franklin needs to earn spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- Ryan Franklin signed with the Cardinals for a lot of reasons, but foremost among them was the opportunity to join the St. Louis starting rotation. Franklin, a reliever for the Phillies and Reds in 2005, entered free agency looking for a chance to start again.

And it was assumed by many around and outside the Cards organization that he'd be given that chance. When Franklin signed on, it appeared he would be a favorite for one of the numerous open starting jobs.

Then came the opening of Spring Training, and pitching coach Dave Duncan made it clear that Franklin would need to win a spot, rather than having one to lose. Franklin will join Brad Thompson and Chris Narveson trying to unseat favorites Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper. Chris Carpenter is a certainty, and Kip Wells close to it.

"My whole career, I've had to work for everything that I get and every spot that I make," said Franklin. "That's not going to change. And I like it that way. I think it makes me a hard worker and it makes me better."

Along with Franklin, someone else was caught off guard by Duncan's declaration that Reyes, Wainwright and Looper entered camp as "priority" candidates. Manager Tony La Russa always prefers not to declare favorites when there's the potential for competition.

"If [Duncan] makes that claim that we've got five guys, and the other two guys or three guys have to show something extra to nudge one of them aside, he's thought about that," La Russa said. "And he understands the pitchers better than I do. So we'll go with that. But down deep -- and I make sure I say this when he's not around -- I don't agree with that."

The decision will be made collaboratively, with La Russa, Duncan, bullpen coach Marty Mason and plenty of other staffers weighing in.

"We've said for years, we pick the five best," La Russa said. "All you've got to do is be better than somebody."

In Franklin's case, he'll be trying to avoid a repeat of the spring of 2006. Franklin entered Phillies camp expecting to win a rotation job, and instead found himself relieving.

"I signed over there," Franklin said, "and all my conversations with [general manager] Pat Gillick were, 'Hey, you're going to be our fourth or fifth starter.' And all the way through spring, I threw [18 2/3] innings of spring with [a 3.37 ERA]. ... And then [manager] Charlie Manuel called me in the office and said they liked me better as a right-handed setup man.

"I was disappointed, and I told him that. But I just had to take that role. I hadn't done it in five years and it took me a while to get adjusted. It was something different."

Start your engines: Sunday's workout was over by 11 a.m. ET, and La Russa was gone even before that. The manager ducked out not long after 10 o'clock in order to make his way to the Daytona 500.

Not typically a racing fan, La Russa did know who he was supposed to pull for.

"You come from St. Louis, you've got to have a preference for Budweiser's Dale Earnhardt [Jr.]," La Russa said, noting the sponsor for the superstar driver.

Among the other names mentioned to the manager were local sons Carl Edwards, who hails from Columbia, Mo., and St. Louis-area native Mike Wallace.

Ramping up: After four days of bullpen sessions, Cardinals pitchers will ratchet up the intensity level on Monday. Seven pitchers will throw what the team calls "pitching practice," with hitters standing in the box.

As camp goes on, the pitching practice will become more competitive. At first, most hitters are told what pitches are coming. With each throw, the sessions become more like simulated at-bats and innings.

Arrivals: Players continued to trickle in on Sunday. So Taguchi arrived in the morning and worked out briefly, while Scott Rolen dropped in at the Roger Dean Stadium complex on Sunday afternoon.

Quotable: "Even if I did hear something negative, Spring Training's not over until it's over. We haven't left for St. Louis yet." -- Franklin

Weather report: Monday should bring warmer temps after another sunny but cool day on Sunday. The forecast calls for highs in the upper 60s with a brisk wind.

Coming up: The full squad reports on Monday, but will not work out just yet. Pitchers and catchers will hit the field at 9:30 a.m. ET to begin their stretch and workout. Full-squad workouts begin on Tuesday.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.