10/16/2004 4:29 PM ET
Notes: Ailing Kline rejoins club
Cards lefty likely unavailable for a day or two
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
|Reliever Steve Kline is eligible for free agency at the conclusion of the World Series. (Elsa/Getty Images)
HOUSTON -- Steve Kline rejoined the Cardinals on Saturday, a day after having his left index finger examined by a specialist in St. Louis. Kline is likely unavailable for at least a day or two, but the team hopes he will be able to pitch before the National League Championship Series ends.
"Improved from two days ago," manager Tony La Russa said when asked about Kline's condition. "[We're] optimistic that he would be available in this series sometime."
Kline has been battling a painful tear in the flexor tendon in his finger, and the condition was aggravated by what is believed to be gout. His absence leaves Ray King as the only left-handed pitcher at La Russa's disposal.
"Fortunately, we've got several right-handers that are good against left-handed hitters," the manager said. "The Astros are not a real predominant left-hand club. They don't have any [in their lineup]. A couple switch-hitters, two pinch-hitters. So it's not the kind of club or series where having two left-handers in the bullpen is a big plus for us. We'll just be careful how we use Ray."
Some published reports indicated that Kline had gone to Indianapolis to be examined, but that trip wasn't necessary once it was determined that Kline had no additional tendon damage in his finger.
On second thought: Throughout the regular season, La Russa played matchups heavily, especially in left field. If a player had particularly strong career stats against the opposing starting pitcher, La Russa typically found a way to get that player into the starting lineup.
That led to quite a bit of speculation that Roger Cedeno -- 10-for-23 with six walks lifetime against Game 3 starter Roger Clemens -- would make his first postseason start of the year on Saturday. But Reggie Sanders was written in as the left fielder and No. 7 hitter, just as he was in the Cards' previous six playoff games this fall.
"I like the way Sanders is competing," La Russa said. "I like the threat that he could run into something, and the way he's playing left field. Especially in a National League game, there's nothing wrong with -- there's a lot good about -- having a real threat on the bench for the right pinch-hitting situation. Because other than [Cedeno], we've got a bunch of other guys that have struggled against Clemens. I like how Sanders plays. Roger is available if the situation comes up."
One consideration during the regular season was the desire to get Sanders regular rest. The 36-year-old outfielder has never played more than 140 games in a season. The postseason provides built-in rest days, however, obviating the need for taking games off.
Inside? Out? The roof at Minute Maid Park was closed for Saturday's game due to an unexpected increase in temperature (it got up into the high 80s during the afternoon), as well as the shadows that splashed across the field while the roof was open.
Major League Baseball senior vice president of on-field operations, Bob Watson, conferred with La Russa and Astros manager Phil Garner, and the decision was reached.
Clemens has a strong preference to pitch with the roof closed in order to minimize the South Texas heat.
Just do your thing: If things are going well for Game 4 starter Jason Marquis, he's a perfect fit for the tight confines of Minute Maid Park.
Marquis' modus operandi is to induce a slew of groundballs, which in theory should make him less vulnerable to the homers that tend to fly out frequently.
"It's like pitching in any other ballpark," he said. "You really can't let the, I guess, the atmosphere of the place where you're going change your game plan. You're the pitcher you are. I don't think any pitcher dictates his game plan according to the ballpark.
"More so, you dictate it more to the hitters. I think if you execute your pitches, stick to your game plan, you're going to have success in any ballpark. That's what we preach over here. I think that's why we've had so much success this year."
Marquis ranked second in the National League with a 2.05:1 groundout-to-flyout ratio. However, he also served up 26 home runs in 201 1/3 innings, an unusual combination.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.