Notebook: Looking for relief in pivotal spots that fits just right, Cardinals see if VerHagen can seize role

Derrick Goold

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol’s answer late Friday night about turning to right-hander Drew VerHagen for essential outs was meant for more than articles and tweets of the writers present.

He hoped a pair of ears in the clubhouse caught it, too.

“That was a little bit for him to hear that you’re going to have an opportunity to get big outs, and we’ll see what you do with it,” Marmol elaborated Saturday morning. “If you look at our bullpen we need some of these righties to be able to get outs in meaningful situations whose names aren’t (Gio) Gallegos, (Ryan) Helsley, and (Andre) Pallante.

“That’s what that comment came from.”

A season of varying roles — from starting in spring to long relief in April — has conjured a new one for the veteran pitcher the Cardinals lured back from Japan this winter. In Friday’s 4-2 victory, VerHagen threw three pitches to unplug a threat from Milwaukee. He replaced starter Dakota Hudson with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and promptly got a groundout to strand all three runners.

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It was the first time this season he’s entered with the bases jammed and a mess to clean, and the first he’s done so in the majors since April 2019 with Detroit.

“That was fun,” VerHagen said. “I enjoyed that.”

One of the finalists to start the year in the rotation, VerHagen spent a…

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