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Franklin staying in 'pen to begin year

Franklin staying in bullpen

JUPITER, Fla. -- With four starting pitchers on the shelf, the Cardinals are pondering plenty of options for how to fill out a rotation for the remainder of spring and the beginning of the season. Yet one potential in-house option is not being seriously considered.

Ryan Franklin, who has two 200-inning seasons and three 30-start campaigns in the Major Leagues, will remain in the bullpen for now. Franklin's workload is being built up so that he could pitch multiple innings in relief, but not working toward starting.

"A major strength of us [in 2007] was our bullpen," manager Tony La Russa said on Wednesday. "And I don't think messing with that bullpen, when you're going to have to fill it with somebody else that does Franklin's job, [is wise]. I don't know that we have that person."

Franklin remains open to starting, but isn't lobbying for it.

"I really pretty much leave it up to them," Franklin said. "They know I can do it. I think they know what I can do and what I've done in the past. If they need something, they probably know that I'd be willing to do it."

Last spring, Franklin came to camp hoping to compete for a rotation spot. However, he was quickly shifted to relief work, and he thrived as the top setup man to Jason Isringhausen. Franklin posted a 3.04 ERA in 80 innings (69 appearances), walking just 11 men all year.

"He had a pretty good year last year, and you want to be careful about disturbing that," said pitching coach Dave Duncan. "And you've got to have somebody that you feel like can replace him."

Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder, ideally the Cardinals' top two starters, are both sidelined following arm surgeries in 2007. Right-hander Matt Clement has progressed more slowly than the team hoped and is not expected to be available at the start of the season. And most recently, Joel Pineiro has come down with soreness just below his right shoulder, jeopardizing his availability when the club breaks camp.

"We haven't missed it," Duncan said of Franklin's starting history. "It's something that, if you make a decision like that, it has to be a final decision. You would have to make a final decision on making that move if that's what you chose to do. I'm not ready to make a final decision on any of that stuff. Otherwise it would be very disruptive to him."

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

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