2006 World Champions – Where Are They Now: The Bullpen


On Tuesday we took a look back at the fate of the starting rotation from the 2006 St Louis Cardinals World Series roster. Today we  are going to have a look back and see how things have fared for the members of the bullpen. Have things turned out better for them then their starting counterparts?

Heading into the playoffs, the Cardinals were blessed with a bullpen that was decidedly mediocre during the regular season. Key injuries to Josh Hancock and Jason Isringhausen left the Cardinals without one of their workhorse relievers and their closer. They were relying on the rookie Adam Wainwright to pick up saves during the World Series. In hindsight, we know that things worked out very well for them, but the weakness of the bullpen was one of the many reasons that the Cardinals were not looked at as a threat heading into the playoffs. The staff that was below average on paper was lights out in the playoffs, led of course by Wainwright.

Wainwright picked up four saves in the playoffs. His most memorable was his dramatic strikeout of Carlos Beltran in game 7 of the NLCS. He ended the playoffs with 15 strikeouts in 9.2 innings and allowed no runs. With his strong showing in the playoffs, Wainwright earned a spot in the rotation for the 2007 season. The season-ending injury to Chris Carpenter thrust Wainwright into the ace role and he delivered fairly well for a weak Cardinals team. He followed that performance up with an 11 win showing in an injury-shortened 2008 and Cy Young campaigns in 2009 and 2010. Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery at the beginning of the 2011 season and is slated to return for next season. Whether he can regain his Cy Young form or not is one of the biggest questions heading into the season.

Wainwright’s primary setup man was Braden Looper. Looper was serviceable in the playoffs, allowing four runs in eight and two thirds. He was converted to a starter in the 2007 season in the wake of Carpenter’s injury. His performance in 2007 and 2008 remains one of Dave Duncan’s shining hours. Looper was nowhere near Cy Young caliber, but performed well as a fill-in starter. He started for Milwaukee in 2009, but put up a 5.22 ERA. Looper announced his retirement in March of 2011.

The Cardinals second setup man was Tyler Johnson. Johnson was below mediocre during his rookie season, but stepped up in the playoffs. He struck out twelve in seven innings and only allowed one run in seven innings of work. Johnson spent time in the bullpen for the Cardinals in 2007, but his skills did not transfer well to a full season of work. He lost 2008 due to injuries and was non-tendered by the Cardinals. He signed a minor league deal with the Mariners in 2009, but was released after two months of rehabbing his arm injuries. He hasn’t been signed to a team since.

Joining Wainwright and Johnson in the Cardinals predominantly rookie bullpen was Josh Kinney. Kinney pitched fairly well in his 25 innings of work during the regular season, but didn’t allow a run in six and third innings of work in the playoffs. Kinney underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2007 season and returned to the major league team in September of 2008. He had a strong finish to the season, not allowing a run in 7 innings. He bounced between the major league team and AAA in 2009, not being able to remain consistent at the major league level. Kinney pitched very well for the Memphis Redbirds in 201o, but never got the call to the major league team. He was signed to the White Sox in 2011, but put a 6.62 ERA in seventeen innings at the major league level. Kinney signed a minor league contract with Seattle in December and will compete for a bullpen spot with the Mariners.

Also unscored upon in the playoffs was Randy Flores. Flores was another who put up a poor 2006 regular season only to up his game for the playoffs. He returned to the Cardinals in 2007, but bounced between AAA and the MLB in 2008. Flores signed a minor league contract with Colorado in 2009. He made the opening roster, but was sent down in August after allowing a 5.25 ERA in twelve innings. He pitched 27 solid innings in 2010 before being claimed off waivers by Minnesota. He signed a minor league contract with San Diego for the 2011 season, but bounced between the Padres, Yankees, and Brewers AAA affiliates. Flores enters 2012 looking for a team to take a chance on a rebound.

The last pitcher for the Cardinals 2006 World Series team was Brad Thompson. Thompson was the black sheep of the bullpen, allowing 3 runs in 2 innings work. For 2007-2009, Thompson bounced between St Louis and Memphis. He was used primarily as a long reliever and spot starter. He signed a minor league deal with Kansas City for the 2010 season, but was designated for assignment and opted for free agency. He then signed with Houston but was released in August. Thompson missed all of 2011 with injuries. Like Flores, he enters 2012 attempting a return to the MLB.

Looked at as a shoddy bullpen, the Cardinals staff surprised analysts with their stellar play in the playoffs. Aside from Wainwright, though, they have gone on to little or no success in their respective careers. Interestingly, from the entire 2006 pitching staff, only Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright remain on the St Louis Cardinals today.

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