ST. LOUIS -- A year and five days after he made comments that helped pave his way out of St. Louis, Ray King was back in town, and this time he had only nice things to say about his former team. King, a member of the executive board of the Major League Baseball Players' Association, appeared at Busch Stadium to discuss the new collective bargaining agreement.
But King, always one of the chattiest players around, also made time to talk about the World Series and his old teammates -- and he's pulling for them. He's also picking them to win.
"You've got to go with St. Louis," King said when asked for a series prediction. "The game [Anthony] Reyes pitched, it really gave a twist. They can bring him back on regular rotation instead of bringing the other guys back on three days' rest. Plus, I like the situation where Albert [Pujols] hasn't been Albert in the first couple games, but [Yadier] Molina has carried them -- and outstanding pitching. So now they're home in front of the home crowd, and hopefully they can take the next two and win it."
King voiced his displeasure last October after not pitching in the National League Division Series or NL Championship Series. He missed a portion of the NLDS because of the death of his father, and was not used by manager Tony La Russa after returning to the team.
He's taken particular delight in seeing a couple of his former protégés succeed. Randy Flores served as King's understudy last year, and Tyler Johnson pitched briefly with King in '05. They're now the two left-handers in the St. Louis bullpen.
"It feels great," King said. "As soon as they clinched and got in the playoffs, I made a phone call to Flores and I made a phone call to Tyler. When I was here last year, I was joking, I said, 'I'm going to make a lot of money next year, so I'm out of here. You guys are going to take over.'
"But I told them just to go in there and relax and do like they did in the regular season. Just attack the strike zone and get ahead of hitters and put the ball in play. Don't try to strike people out. And that's what they've been doing. From Brad [Thompson] to the new guys, they've done a tremendous job. Hopefully they continue and win this thing."
King was traded to Colorado in December for Larry Bigbie and Aaron Miles. He posted a 4.43 ERA in 67 appearances for the Rockies.
Back and forth: The controversy regarding Kenny Rogers and whatever was on his hand in Game 2 remained alive and well on Tuesday. In comments printed in USA Today on Tuesday morning, Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae went further than any other Cardinal had publicly gone in accusing Rogers of doctoring the baseball.
"It was so blatant," McRae told the paper. "What was so strange about it was how obvious it was, in the World Series. It's a shame a guy would cheat in a World Series game. It hurts the integrity of the game. He wasn't just cheating by using pine tar; he was scuffing balls, too. We collected about five or six balls that are scuffed. He had to be using his fingernails or something."
McRae declined to comment any further on Tuesday. When a group of reporters asked him to stop and talk, all he said was:
"No, no, no, no, no. It's the World Series, guys."
Tigers first-base coach Andy Van Slyke took great umbrage at McRae's comments.
"My reaction was he's horribly misinformed," Van Slyke said. "I don't want to defend him, because I think he's out of line, but I think what he's trying to do is he's sending a message to his hitters that he's concerned about what they're concerned about, more than anything else. I think he was sending a message to his hitters that at least he's looking out for them."
Van Slyke wasn't surprised that McRae was reluctant to comment further.
"I'm sure he was. Leather doesn't taste very good," Van Slyke said. "When you put your shoe in your mouth, that's what happens."
Encarnacion sits: With Juan Encarnacion struggling at the plate, La Russa gave his usual right fielder the night off on Tuesday. So Taguchi got the call in Encarnacion's place, with Preston Wilson starting in left field. Wilson is having a bit of a rough go as well, but he's 5-for-5 lifetime against Tigers starter Nate Robertson.
"So, there's been a couple of times [Wilson has] been right on the mark and gotten nosed out," La Russa said. "You've got to get what you earn. He's been clutch off the bench. He played Game 1 and showed good life, got the bat out. [And] part of it is that Juan is struggling. It's not like he's the only guy that's struggling, I don't like to point fingers, but he's talking about not feeling right. And that's a good indication, if I've got an alternative, I ought to go the other way."
Encarnacion is 0-for-7 in the World Series and 8-for-43 (.186) in the postseason. In another lineup shift, La Russa moved Ronnie Belliard up into the fifth spot, thanks largely to his 8-for-25 mark against Robertson.
This date in Cardinals history: On Oct. 24, 1985, the Cardinals missed out on their first chance to close out the Royals in the World Series. Bob Forsch lasted only 1 2/3 innings, while Danny Jackson pitched a complete game for KC, as the Cards lost, 6-1, in Game 5.
Coming up: Game 4 of the World Series is set for Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, weather permitting. Jeff Suppan will go up against Jeremy Bonderman, with first pitch set for 7:27 p.m. CT.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.