06/01/2007 1:52 PM ET
Springer: The role of a veteran reliever
"Fifteen years have blown by, but I still feel young," says Russ Springer. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
In addition to coming in and throwing every time the phone rings, my job calls for me to be a leader in the bullpen and to help the young guys out.
I was brought to the Cardinals this past winter to pitch first and foremost, but the idea of helping the younger pitchers makes it an especially attractive situation for me. I enjoy that a lot.
When I came up with the Yankees in 1992, I was thrust into a relief role even though I hadn't previously worked out of the bullpen. I was lucky that guys like Steve Farr, John Habyan and Lee Guetterman really helped me out.
So I feel like I owe it to the game to pass on whatever I can to younger guys now. If I think someone here needs a little help, I'm ready to help them out. It's my turn to support young pitchers the way Farr, Habyan and Guetterman supported me 15 years ago.
Having worked as both a reliever and as a starter, I have some valuable knowledge to share with some of these guys who are working in relief for the first time. I've run into guys both last year in Houston and this year in St. Louis who had only worked as starters before. Relieving is different. You have to prepare yourself differently. And unless there's somebody here to show you those ropes, there can be a lot of bumps trying to figure it out yourself.
I don't know exactly when I became a veteran. Joining the Yankees in '92 seems like a long time to most people, but it doesn't to me. I went from being a young guy to being an old guy, though, and I don't remember what happened in between. It's like somebody just clicked their fingers. Fifteen years have blown by, but I still feel young. Maybe surrounding yourself with young relievers every year helps make you feel young? But I certainly don't feel old.
This is my second time with St. Louis and the third time that I've returned to a team. I played with Arizona twice and with Houston twice. Here, the coaching staff is still the same, but there are a lot of new players. With Houston, there was a big gap and a lot of things had changed. Arizona was all the same.
It didn't take long to get into a groove with my new Cardinals teammates. Some guys I'd played with before. We have a good group here.
While I'm enjoying my role here and the time I spend with the younger pitchers, I won't be coaching right away when my career ends. Maybe down the road, though.
When I hang it up, it won't be because I don't think I can compete anymore. It will be because it's time for me to go home and be a daddy to my kids. I want to raise my family the way they should be raised and not be dragging them all over the country.
Coaching, like playing, is living out of a suitcase. If I want to live out of a suitcase, I would much rather be playing. I'm not ruling it out, altogether, though. I do like working with young people and young players, and that can be done at a lot of levels. I guess I'll decide that when it comes.
Russ Springer, 38, returned to the Cardinals this past offseason after spending the previous three seasons with the Astros. Springer, who has pitched in more than 500 career games for six different teams, has a 1-0 record and a 3.18 ERA over 17 innings this season.