Cardinals manager Tony La Russa moved to temper some of the optimism about right-hander Chris Carpenter on Thursday afternoon, saying he still finds it highly unlikely that Carpenter will be able to pitch again in 2004.
Carpenter has been sidelined since Sept. 18 with a biceps strain and nerve irritation in his right arm, but he said Wednesday that he had received good news on the injury. That same day, he played catch for the first time in three weeks.
Still, the lengthy layoff means his chances of pitching in the World Series -- should the Cardinals get there -- are slim.
"He's got to go through all this stuff," La Russa said. "He's got to build his arm up. He's got to show that he can pitch competitively. If he pitches, somebody else doesn't. I think that's an awful lot to ask. It's kind of unrealistic. He's coming off of surgeries. It sure seems like we run a risk there.
"I like that Chris is encouraged. All of a sudden he really sees progress. But it would be a big surprise if he's ready."
Carpenter was left off the Cards' roster for both the Division Series and the National League Championship Series.
Feeling all right: Jason Isringhausen enjoyed his first fully healthy season as a Cardinal this year, making 74 appearances, pitching 75 1/3 innings and racking up 47 saves -- all personal highs since he was converted to a reliever in 1999. Yet at the same time, the Cards were able to use him sparingly down the stretch. Isringhausen's 10 1/3 innings pitched in September were his lowest of any full month during the regular season.
As a result, he says he's feeling strong as the playoffs march deeper into the second round.
"If I needed time off, we had a comfortable lead or we had clinched, and we had other guys that could close out games," he said. "That's what Tony did with me. He did it with everybody. If guys needed days off, that's what we did. We had that luxury that some people didn't. We weren't trying to fight to get to the playoffs."
Isringhausen got a one-out save on Wednesday after Houston climbed back into the game.
"I joked with them today, that's what the setup men are for, is to get me a save," he quipped. "They didn't like that too much, but I thought it was funny."
Not feeling so good, myself: Jim Edmonds has become known as a streaky hitter, the kind of player who can carry a team when he's hot but can appear lost when he's not. He entered the playoffs in a bit of a funk, but has had a couple of big hits in five postseason games. That's pretty standard for the center fielder, who has been a quality playoff performer throughout his career.
Still, Edmonds is loath to analyze his hot and cold streaks, getting extremely philosophical when the topic comes up.
Jim Edmonds / CF
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
"This is a weird game," he said. "One day, the ball's going down the middle, one day you hit it and the next day you miss it. At this level, you usually only get one [pitch down the middle]. I don't know how it turns so fast."
Edmonds' three-run double put Wednesday night's game out of reach, giving St. Louis a six-run lead that it would not relinquish.
Go get 'em: The St. Louis Rams had a dedicated group of fans rooting them on from Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon, when they came from behind to beat the previously unbeaten Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals watched the end of the comeback, cheering all the way.
"We were watching the Sunday game, we were getting ready to play -- what was it? Game 4, I guess -- and we're not really happy because the Seahawks are just beating them up," La Russa said. "Toward the end of batting practice, some guy came running out, one of the guys in the clubhouse, said the Rams were coming back. We thought about cutting short batting practice. We got back to see the last touchdown and tying field goal.
"It worked out perfectly, timing-wise. We saw them go right down and win. So I had the idea, you know, come to our guys, when they scored on that long pass, our guys were whooping it up. I dialed [Rams coach Mike Martz's] number and put it on his voice mail right away, I said, 'Listen to this. Congratulations.'
"It was a big win for them. They pull for us, we pull for them. [We'll] pull for the Blues if they ever get out there. It's coincidental that we were able to be in the clubhouse and watch that comeback. The guys were excited, and Mike could hear that, so I called him."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.