Rzepczynski Wants to Prove He Is Worthy; Pitcher Takes Responsibility for Lack of Conviction; Mozeliak Says He Didn't See the 'Fire.'

By Cardinal Insider > Derrick Goold | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

Rzepczynski Wants to Prove He Is Worthy; Pitcher Takes Responsibility for Lack of Conviction; Mozeliak Says He Didn't See the 'Fire.'


Cardinal Insider > Derrick Goold, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


MILWAUKEE o If it appeared last week that the Cardinals had lefty Marc Rzepczynski take the fall for a beleaguered bullpen, then it should be noted he already beat the club to the blame game.

A few days before bruising his eye on the golf course and a month before his ongoing struggles came to represent a relief corps in crisis, Rzepczynski stood at his spring training locker and took stock of his previous season. His overall numbers - which included a 4.24 ERA in 70 games - were weighted down by an awful June, and he couldn't shake the connection between his difficult stretch and the Cardinals' sinking in the standings.

"I think the consistency of what I'm throwing caused a lot of inconsistency in the bullpen," Rzepczynski said this spring. "I don't want to take all - well, I guess I will take the full blame of it. When I started pitching bad is when we had our toughest spell. When I started pitching poorly is when we had the tough time as a group." What was true then, became true again.

Twice last week the Cardinals demoted incumbent relievers and promoted prospects to reboot the bullpen in a search for consistency. Rzepczynski and his 7.88 ERA in eight innings went first, going to Class AAA Memphis on Monday. Setup man Mitchell Boggs followed Friday. Combined, lefty Rzepczynski and righty Boggs had 227 appearances for the Cardinals in 2011 and 2012 and 61 holds, the middle-relief equivalent of a save. Each used their arbitration eligibility this past winter to land salaries of more than $1 million, meaning the Cardinals have $2.575 million in relievers relegated to the minors. They were replaced by rookies Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez, respectively, who combined had 25 innings pitched at Class AAA in their pro careers.

The Cardinals quickly said that Boggs' assignment to Triple-A was not expected to last long, and that he needed the time to correct his mechanics without intense scrutiny. Rzepczynski's assignment was more nebulous, his struggles dating a bit further back than Boggs' and the expectation for his return as uncertain as his role seemingly has been the past two seasons. Asked what the organization needed to see out of Rzepczynski, general manager John Mozeliak was blunt.

"Outs," he said.

But there's more to it.

The Cardinals could make the connection between Rzepczynski's struggles this season and his inconsistent outings last season. There were times his breaking ball failed him and his overall command suffered. Of deeper concern this season was his inability to strand inherited runners. Six of the seven runners left on base to him by other starters scored. There were times the club saw Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-Chin-Ski) look into the dugout as if uncomfortable on the mound or distrusting of his stuff. Mozeliak said he didn't see the necessary competitiveness - "fire," was his word - from Rzepczynski.

Rzepczynski read that comment after joining Memphis' bullpen and understood that even if he disagreed he had a problem of perception.

"If he sees it that way then I must be doing something wrong," Rzepczynski said early Friday morning before leaving Albuquerque, N.M., with the Redbirds on a flight to Omaha. "My objective then down here is to prove them wrong. Go out, get it back together, put up zeroes. I agree that my stuff has been inconsistent and I can't say I don't understand why I'm here. If they don't see the fire then clearly I have something I need to show them." Rzepczynski, 27, came to the Cardinals at the trade deadline in 2011 as part of the seven- player deal that also brought contributors Octavio Dotel and Edwin Jackson from Toronto in exchange for center fielder Colby Rasmus and three pitchers. …

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