Manager Oliver Marmol Says Cardinals Bullpen Roles Have Been Clearly Defined

Getty Images St. Louis Cardinals Manager Oliver Marmol

For St. Louis Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol, one of the keys to the 2024 season was to shore up his pitching staff. The Redbirds posted a 4.79 ERA as a team in 2023, en route to a last-place finish. While team president John Mozeliak added three free-agent starters during the offseason, Marmol searched for the right mix in the bullpen.

Using mostly holdover arms, the skipper has essentially assigned a set role to each member of the ‘pen. That starts at the top and with closer Ryan Helsley. The fireballer was an All-Star in 2022 when he notched a 9-1 record, a 1.25 ERA, and 19 saves. However, he spent most of 2023 on the injured list and was limited to only 33 appearances.

“Helsley can drive into that parking lot every day, walk into the clubhouse and know that if we have the lead in the ninth, he’s getting the baseball,” Marmol told Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “We always have the conversation on the position player side of showing up to the park and knowing where you’re hitting in the lineup.”

“It’s very similar to that (with the) bullpen knowing: I’m the seventh-inning guy, eighth-inning guy based on the lane, I’m the closer (or) I can come in dirty in the sixth. I feel like the guys are getting to the point where they’re defining that, and we’re sticking to it.”

 A Key New Addition to the Cardinals Bullpen

While Helsley, setup man Giovanny Gallegos, and several others remain from the 2023 staff, one newcomer is expected to play a huge role in the St. Louis bullpen. Righthander Andrew Kittredge was acquired during the offseason via trade from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Kittredge, 34, commented to the Post-Dispatch about his spot in the bullpen, and what he feels he brings to the table for the Cardinals in 2024.

“I think there is a huge benefit of getting guys in their role, so you don’t have to get guys out of their roles,” the Redbird reliever stated. “I think it kind of depends on the pitcher. So much of what you deal with in the ’pen can be anxiety, it can be nerves and it can be guys totally calm down there.

“For me, personally, I like the little bit of a surprise,” he continued. “But I’m also not upset knowing when I’m going to throw, what situation, what inning. It does benefit a lot of guys from a preparation standpoint. Maybe I’m the outlier.”

Ryan Helsley is the Clear-Cut Closer

Despite being out for the majority of last season, Marmol penciled in Helsley to return to his breakout role – Cardinals closer. With a fastball over 100 mph and an All-Star appearance under his belt, Helsley stated that Marmol made it clear he would be the guy to slam the door on the opposition.

“[Marmol] told me that he wanted me to focus on just being a one-inning guy this year,” said Helsley, who has also been a starter in his pro career. “He really just wanted me to focus on the ninth inning and only worrying about that.

Thus far, Helsley has four saves and a 3.86 ERA in the young season. The Cardinals have registered a 3.99 team ERA through their first 13 games.

The Cardinals (6-7) will look to get above .500 as they begin back-to-back road series against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics.