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Wainright, Looper will likely share closer role
With a rainout on Sunday, the Cardinals haven't had a save situation in two weeks.
ST. LOUIS -- Braden Looper got a lucrative contract to be the setup man in the St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen and also serve as a fill-in closer on days Jason Isringhausen was not available.
Now that Isringhausen is out for the rest of the season with an injured left hip that will require surgery for the second time in two years, the Cardinals hope Looper's three-year, $13.5-million deal pays off.
Looper and rookie Adam Wainwright are expected to share the closer role the rest of the way for the NL Central leaders.
"It's hard to replace a guy like that," Looper said after Sunday's game against the Giants was canceled due to rain combined with a poor forecast. "Everybody's going to have to just step it up a little bit and try to cover the loss."
The game was called after a delay of 1 1/2 hours before the start and will not be made up unless it's necessary to determine a playoff spot.
San Francisco entered the day 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card standings. The Cardinals have a 7-game lead and a magic number of 8 for clinching the Central after the Cincinnati Reds lost to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
So far the Cardinals haven't needed a closer since Isringhausen's 10th blown save in 43 chances in his last outing on Sept. 6, with zero save chances since then. Eventually, they'll have to see how the fill-ins adjust to the pressure of the ninth inning.
Wainwright is 1-for-3 in save chances and Looper is 0-for-1, although he had 28 saves in 36 chances for the New York Mets last season and has 103 career saves.
"I'm looking forward to pitching late in games," Wainwright said. "If that opportunity comes, that would be great. If not we've got a bunch of capable guys that can do it also. I'm just doing my part."
Manager Tony La Russa also said he can use Josh Hancock and Jorge Sosa in the closer role.
"We've got a lot of weapons down there and we'll just try to see who's fresh that day, who's available," La Russa said. "Most times it'll be Wainwright and Looper down there pitching the last part of the game."
Isringhausen, 34, is scheduled for a round of examinations before undergoing surgery on his hip. After a discouraging bullpen workout on Friday, four days after receiving a cortisone injection, all parties decided it best he not pitch again this season.
"It's just not responding," La Russa said. "It's mostly his decision because he knows what he has. He can't deliver the pitches he has to consistently."
Neither of the new closers has gotten much input from La Russa on the situation.
"He's a guy that likes to keep his cards close," Wainwright said. "I know he's got a plan, but I don't think he likes to talk to us about it."
Looper, who underwent shoulder surgery in the offseason, has excelled in the setup role. He has a career-best nine victories, tied for the major league lead for relievers.
"I'm going to go out there when they call my name and try to make good pitches," Looper said. "I've done it before definitely and I obviously look forward to maybe getting an opportunity, but we've got a couple of guys who've thrown it real well."
The rainout cost Giants rookie left-hander Jonathan Sanchez a start. Manager Felipe Alou said he'd keep the rest of the rotation intact, with Noah Lowry scheduled to start the opener of a three-game series at Colorado on Monday, with Sanchez slated for Friday at Milwaukee.
Alou considered the rainout a good thing because of nagging injuries to several players. Second baseman Ray Durham was a lineup scratch due to tendinitis in his left knee and Alou said shortstop Omar Vizquel and right fielder Moises Alou both would benefit from a day off.
"Maybe we caught a break," Alou said. "Ray, I had no idea how bad he was. It's hard to tell, but I'm not mad about the rain."
La Russa said Jeff Weaver, who had been scheduled to start on Sunday, will be pushed back at least a day because he threw a full warmup. He said rookie Anthony Reyes would start on Monday at Milwaukee and that Weaver could come back Tuesday or Wednesday.