Cardinals search for stability in bullpen

Cardinals search for stability in bullpen

MILWAUKEE -- A spectacular 13-strikeout performance from Carlos Martinez finished largely as a subscript, as the Cardinals pulled out a 6-5 victory over Milwaukee by mustering some late-game heroics.

Those late-inning runs were necessary after another night of shaky relief from a Cardinals' bullpen still in search of stabilization. Matt Bowman and Kevin Siegrist, two of manager Mike Matheny's most trusted relievers, squandered a two-run lead, as the St. Louis 'pen labored for the third straight day.

"We're a little beat up in the 'pen," Matheny acknowledged afterward. "Guys keep taking the ball, but you can tell it's the dog days. We're around the corner from maybe getting another arm or so. But right now, we just have to push."

With September callups may come more options, but the Cardinals also hope for a second wind from those they have. Trevor Rosenthal is sidelined until further notice with right shoulder trouble and Alex Reyes has moved to the rotation, which means Matheny's late-inning options have thinned.

It also hasn't helped that the Cardinals' starting pitchers have left so many innings uncovered. Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals' bullpen has thrown 145 2/3 innings, fifth most in the Majors.

Asked who could slide into higher-leverage spots, Matheny noted that the "door is wide open." He'd like to continue using Siegrist and Bowman as setup options, though both have been battling issues recently. The Cardinals, concerned about fatigue as Bowman navigates through his first big league season, recently had him pitch once in an eight-day stretch.

Arm discomfort limited Siegrist to one appearance from Aug. 14-25. Since then, he's allowed four hits, four walks and two runs in 1 1/3 innings. On Monday, his first pitch was crushed for a game-tying double and his last one bounced for a bases-loaded walk.

"I feel good," Siegrist said, insisting that Monday's troubles were not related to any physical ailment. "I just didn't execute tonight. It happens. This year has definitely been a little harder with being out and being sick [with mononucleosis in July]. But I'm at the point now where I just want to get back into a good routine. That's really all."

Who will step up to pitch meaningful setup innings along with Siegrist and Bowman now remains the question. Zach Duke will be in that mix, though he was unavailable Monday due to his recent workload. Broxton has lost some of those opportunities due to command problems.

Miguel Socolovich, who bailed the bullpen out on Monday, may get his chance soon.

"Every time one of these guys has an outing like that," Matheny said, "it moves them closer to pitching in those higher-leverage situations."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.