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The X-Factor
Tom Verducci
March 23, 1998
The Cardinals have been blessed with several impressive closers—Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Dennis Eckersley-and all came to St. Louis as proven commodities. But even though Jeff Brantley was a savior for the Reds two years ago, he hasn't yet established himself as a consistent door-slammer. He missed most of '97 with a bum right shoulder, and at 34, full recovery is not a lock. Manager Tony La Russa tends to work his bullpen aces hard, so if Brantley can equal the 44 saves he notched in '96, it'll mean he's healthy and St. Louis is winning. If not, it could mean the Cards will fold.
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March 23, 1998

The X-factor

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The Cardinals have been blessed with several impressive closers—Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, Dennis Eckersley-and all came to St. Louis as proven commodities. But even though Jeff Brantley was a savior for the Reds two years ago, he hasn't yet established himself as a consistent door-slammer. He missed most of '97 with a bum right shoulder, and at 34, full recovery is not a lock. Manager Tony La Russa tends to work his bullpen aces hard, so if Brantley can equal the 44 saves he notched in '96, it'll mean he's healthy and St. Louis is winning. If not, it could mean the Cards will fold.

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