Could Cardinals make a change at closer?

June 25th, 2016

SEATTLE -- A month that opened with manager Mike Matheny insisting that there would be no changes coming to the closer's role is now nearing an end with growing uncertainty surrounding that spot.

After nudging their way ahead of the Mariners during a three-run eighth, the Cardinals watched it all dissolve for naught as Trevor Rosenthal failed to retire any of the three batters he faced in the ninth. Adam Lind's walk-off blast capped the comeback by the Mariners, who grabbed a 4-3 win in Friday's series opener to halt the Cardinals' road winning streak at eight.

"I went out there and did my best, gave it everything I've got," said Rosenthal, who suffered his third blown save and took his third loss of the season. "I thought I was making some good pitches and it just kind of happened. It's not fun doing that, but I felt like I had good stuff."

However good Rosenthal has felt, it hasn't translated into a run of success. His season ERA sits at 5.63, and Rosenthal's WHIP (3.00) and ERA (14.14) in the month of June rank second-highest among all National League relievers with at least five appearances.

And after repeatedly denying that the club was considering a closer's change, Matheny sounded much less assured of staying the course after Friday's defeat.

"Yeah, I don't know," he said when how the team moves forward with Rosenthal in that role. "I don't know the answer right now."

It was a sharp departure from Matheny's response after Rosenthal had the same result -- three batters faced, three runs allowed -- in his first appearance of June. After that outing, Matheny was emphatic that "there's not going to be a new closer."

The Cardinals haven't made a closer's swap since late in 2013, when Rosenthal took over ninth-inning duties. A change now would likely hand the job over to Seung Hwan-Oh, whose season ERA sits at 1.66 after a 1-2-3 inning on Friday. Before signing with the Cardinals in January, Oh had a decorated career closing games in Korea and Japan.

Asked if he felt he was losing his grips on the job, Rosenthal shrugged.

"I don't know," he replied. "I'm showing up ready to go. I feel like I have good stuff and am giving it my best out there. I can't really comment on what hasn't happened."

Friday's outing unraveled quickly for Rosenthal, who allowed a leadoff double before losing Dae-Ho Lee to a full-count walk. That free pass was the 21st allowed by the righty, whose walk rate of 7.9 follows three seasons in which he averaged 3.6 walks per nine innings.

"It might be trying to be too fine early in counts," Rosenthal said, trying to explain the jarring spike. "I just have to go out there and [throw strikes]. It's pretty simple. It's what we're trained to do. It's nothing new. It's nothing I don't know how to do or need to learn to do, I just have to do a better job of it."

After putting the potential tying runs on base, Rosenthal turned his attention to Lind, who was 2-for-6 off him previously. Lind tattooed a 1-1 changeup 417 feet into the right-field seats. It marked the third time in Rosenthal's last 11 appearances that he was not able to record an out.