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Tom Verducci spreads the love

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The love for Doug Melvin, that is, and the very nice bullpen he's put together.

Management acumen -- in the front office and on the field -- may be no more important than in the area of relief pitching. Most teams can't afford to sink huge dollars into pitchers who mostly will throw only between 50 and 90 innings per season. Many relievers are somewhat flawed -- or else they would be starters. They often lack experience or a quality third (or even second) pitch. And few relievers are consistent year in and year out. So a huge amount of responsibility falls on the pitching coach to extract the most out of cheap, flawed pitchers and the manager to use that pitcher in ways in which he might best succeed.

Again, it's worth pointing out that aside from Ricky Bottalico, who's making the staggering sum of $800k, no one else in the 'pen is bringing home more than $360k.

Gary Glover, another one of Melvin's scrap-heap pickups, didn't look great today, but the bullpen really bailed him out--one run in two innings from Santana, followed by three scorless innings from de la Rosa, Adams, and Bottalico. Not only do we now seem to have a reliable closer, we have the luxury to give him a day off in a relatively low-risk save situation. It's worth noting that Santana didn't even make the team--he's only up while Sheets is on the DL--but he's outperforming the vast majority of MLB middle relievers. Last year he pitched in the Japanese minor leagues.

Now, if Mike Maddux can share his pixie dust recipe with Butch Wynegar, the Cardinals will have to settle for the wild card!

Check out the poll by clicking "entry link" below.