Acquired by the Cardinals to be a starting pitcher, Ryan Franklin appeared in 285 regular-season games for them and never made a start. Instead, Franklin established himself as a reliable setup reliever, then a closer and, when his playing career ended, a key member of the front-office staff.
In five seasons (2007-2011) as a Cardinal, Franklin had a 21-19 record with 84 saves and a 3.52 ERA. His best season was 2009 when, as the Cardinals closer, he was 4-3 with 38 saves and a 1.92 ERA in 62 appearances for the National League Central Division champions.
John Mozeliak, Cardinals general manager, saw in Franklin an ability to identify and assess talent, especially pitching. In 2012, Franklin became a special assistant to Mozeliak. Franklin has been in that role ever since.
Through the efforts of Daniel Shoptaw, founder of United Cardinal Bloggers, Mozeliak agreed after the 2016 season to answer questions from Cardinals bloggers.
In response to my question about the role Franklin performs, Mozeliak replied, “Franky has made a nice adjustment from his playing days to working in our baseball operations. He continues to grow as a professional both on the scouting and player development side. He obviously has expertise on pitching and we try to leverage that in the draft and in pro scouting decisions.”
Seeking a stopgap
When Franklin was signed as a free agent by the Cardinals in January 2007, no one could have envisioned he eventually would develop into a trusted advisor to the general manager. Franklin wasn’t even guaranteed a spot on the team.
The 2007 Cardinals, defending World Series champions, headed into spring training with a starting rotation of Chris Carpenter, Kip Wells, Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright.
The Cardinals were seeking someone to fill in as the fifth starter for Mark Mulder, who was recovering from shoulder surgery and was projected to return late in the 2007 season.
The Cardinals signed Franklin, 33, to a one-year, $1 million contract and planned to have him compete with Braden Looper and Brad Thompson for the No. 5 starter role.
Franklin had averaged 200 innings per season as a Mariners starter from 2003 to 2005. Though a workhorse, he wasn’t a winner. In 30 starts for the 2005 Mariners, Franklin had an 8-15 record and 5.16 ERA.
He split the 2006 season as a reliever for the Phillies (1-5, 4.58 ERA) and the Reds (5-2, 4.44 ERA).
The Cardinals hoped the right-hander would transform into an effective starter under the guidance of pitching coach Dave Duncan in much the way Jeff Weaver had in 2006.
Franklin “will be given the chance to win a starting job in spring,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Said columnist Bernie Miklasz: “It’s possible … Franklin will hold Mulder’s spot and head to the bullpen when Mulder re-enters. That’s why Franklin’s low-budget addition makes so much sense.”
However, in spring training, Looper won a starting role and Franklin earned a spot in the bullpen.
Franklin pitched well throughout most of the 2007 season _ his ERA was 1.33 entering August _ and he finished with a 4-4 record and 3.04 ERA, convincing the Cardinals to keep him.