Franklin content as Cards closer, for now
While prepping for 2010, veteran considers retiring after '11
JUPITER, Fla. -- Ryan Franklin has stared down some of the most dangerous hitters, pitched in the tightest of situations, appeared in crucial games and faced all of that at once several times over.
But none of that can make his lower lip quiver like what happened Tuesday, when Franklin's 5-year-old daughter looked at the Cardinals' closer with her puppy-dog eyes and said, "Daddy, I wish you had another job where you were here."
For reasons like that, the 36-year-old right-hander is seriously considering hanging it up once his two-year deal with the Cardinals expires after next season.
"That just tears on you, you know?" Franklin said after the Cardinals' second full-squad workout at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday.
"I've got this year and next year here, and we'll see after that, I don't know. That might be it. ... I feel strong, I don't feel old, and I've been healthy. We'll see. But I'll let myself and my family decide on that."
Franklin's family consists of his wife, Angie Romberg, a son who will be 14 by the time the closer's current deal is up, and two daughters, ages 10 and 5.
Franklin talked Wednesday about how his son is now starting to enjoy baseball more -- "he can use my help," Franklin added -- and how he wants to be a bigger part of his children's lives before it's too late.
So far, Spring Training, road trips and night games have been in the way.
"I feel like I might owe that to them, because I've been away from them half their life, pretty much," Franklin said. "That's the main thing to me is family, anyway, so that's going to weigh in kind of heavy."
But while Franklin admitted he's "definitely" given retirement after the 2011 season a lot of thought, he's got an entire season to worry about, and that's of course his primary focus while currently training in the warm climate of South Florida.
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"I think that's what I was put on Earth for, is to take care of my wife and kids," Franklin said. "And that's what I'm doing right now. But it's fun, and I enjoy it, and I love everything about it. But when it's time, it's time."
Franklin's 2009 success was well documented, and so were his late-season struggles.
He started Spring Training in competition for the closer's spot, then sported a 1.05 ERA and went 35-for-37 in save chances before things quickly went downhill in September. During that last month of the regular season, Franklin had a 6.75 ERA and blew three of his six save chances. Then, he gave up two ninth-inning runs in Game 2 of an eventual three-game National League Division Series sweep suffered at the hands of the Dodgers -- though the runs were unearned because of Matt Holliday's infamous error.
Despite that, Franklin still finished off the season with a 1.92 ERA and more than doubled his previous career high with 38 saves.
Though his struggles pretty much began after signing a two-year, $6.5 million extension at the start of September, the Cardinals haven't wavered from guaranteeing him the closer's role in 2010.
"Being able to perform at the level that he did [in '09], that's unreasonable to expect that this year," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "But the reason we're confident in him is he understands how to pitch, he understands how to prepare, he's smart, he's studied, and all those things will contribute to allow Franklin to pitch well.
"I think the key is that he has to be someone who can stay sharp. ... And I look at him, how he showed up in camp -- he's in great shape, he's very confident about this year -- and I think those are all important factors."
Perhaps role security for the 2010 season is just what Franklin needs.
"I think knowing your role and knowing the guys have confidence in you helps you, and he's got that going for him," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
"That means a lot," Franklin added. "It means that they have faith in my ability and what I can do."
Franklin said he isn't really making any changes from last year, except trying to put a more concerted effort into using his cut fastball against right-handed hitters more often.
As for what led to Franklin's sudden late-season drop, it could've been a result of the workload earlier in the year; or maybe it was not being used as much in September; or maybe he was putting too much pressure on himself after signing that contract.
But Franklin said he can't point to one specific thing. And neither could his catcher.
"I didn't notice anything," Yadier Molina said.
"He was struggling at the end of the season, but that's part of baseball. Everybody has a problem."
One thing Franklin doesn't have a problem with, however, is moving on.
"I learned that you don't sit there and dwell on what happened in the past," Franklin said. "You forget that and move on. You worry about what you can do today to get yourself ready for this season."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.