Bullpen meltdowns prompt Cardinals to return job to Isringhausen

The St. Louis Cardinals have decided it is time to return the closer's role to Jason Isringhausen, who has been languishing as a middle reliever after an early-season slump and a trip to the disabled list.

Ryan Franklin, who had taken over as closer, will return to his previous job as the set-up man.

Both players were informed of the change Monday afternoon. Isringhausen was clearly relieved, and Franklin expressed no surprise at the move.

"In my head, I knew Izzy's the closer and I'm just here to fill in until he got ready, which I think he is," Franklin said.

The change is being made because of recent bullpen implosions. Entering Monday, the Cardinals' bullpen has allowed seven homers and 15 earned runs in 33 2/3 innings.

Franklin has converted 14 of 20 save chances, but five of his past nine appearances have been brutal ones. He has allowed 20 hits (five of them homers) and 10 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings. By comparison, Franklin gave up only three home runs in his first 38 1/3 innings of middle relief this season.

Isringhausen, 35, lost the closer's job -- which had been his since he joined the Cardinals in 2002 -- after going 1-5 with an 8.00 ERA and six blown saves in 17 chances. He went on the disabled list May 13 after punching a television set in the Milwaukee Brewers' visitors clubhouse.

His last save was May 5, but he appears to have regained some confidence and his command, even if he was fidgeting during his stint in middle relief.

"This is what I've done for a long time. Now it's about me going out and doing it. I don't want to go too far beyond that, OK?" Isringhausen said.

In 16 appearances since coming off the DL on June 14, he has allowed eight earned runs in 19 innings, and his ERA has dropped to 5.84. He had consecutive scoreless appearances during the past weekend against the Mets.

"I personally see improvement in the way Izzy's throwing the ball," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "If I didn't think he could go out there and get the save, I certainly wouldn't agree -- not that it would make any difference, but my opinion wouldn't be what it is."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.