ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has remained typically mum regarding his plans for next season. La Russa never says during a season whether he will be back for the following year.

It does sound, though, like La Russa has ruled out one possibility for 2011. He won't be taking over the Cubs' vacant managerial job.

"I don't think so," La Russa said when asked if there were any scenario that might find him managing the North Siders.

Told that his name has been "thrown against the wall" as a possibility in Chicago, La Russa chuckled.

"That's probably a good way to put it," he said, "'Thrown against the wall.' I don't think there's much [chance]. They probably have better sense than that."

Cardinals to skip Garcia's upcoming start

ST. LOUIS -- For about an hour on Wednesday, Jaime Garcia was shut down for the season.

Instead, the Cardinals' rookie left-hander will only skip a single start, and he will then be reevaluated before his next turn in the rotation would come up. Jeff Suppan will start in Garcia's place against the Padres on Saturday.

Garcia has thrown 163 1/3 innings this season, a year after he made a brief Minor League return from Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals are trying to make sure they don't push the 24-year-old lefty too far in his first full big league season.

"I've never done this in my life," Garcia said. "I've never pitched this long, and it's been a long year for me since Spring Training. ... I don't know how to explain it. But I'm fine. I know they're trying to be careful with me. I know they're trying to do what's best for me, for my future. You never know. I don't know what they're going to do. I just know we're going to take this a day at a time and see how it goes."

Garcia informed the Cardinals' training staff on Tuesday that he was feeling some fatigue and stiffness following Monday's start against the Cubs. The training report was then passed on to manager Tony La Russa and general manager John Mozeliak, who met that night and decided it would be prudent to shut Garcia down.

La Russa told reporters of the decision on Wednesday afternoon, but Garcia had not yet been informed at that point. Shortly after the announcement, La Russa, Mozeliak, Garcia and pitching coach Dave Duncan held a closed-door meeting in La Russa's office, and the plan was softened a bit. Garcia will skip one start, and then the club will re-assess.

The rethinking was driven in part by Garcia's wish to continue pitching.

"He said, 'Look, I've worked really hard,'" La Russa said. "He understands the culture of the starting pitchers that they've got here, the five guys. And he doesn't want anybody to think that he's losing a piece of that. So we honored that. We honored his input, and the fact that he is doing his exercises and he does have strength. We're trying to be careful, but we can still be careful without making a final decision."

Garcia acknowledged that his commitment to his teammates played a major part in his wish to keep pitching. He also admitted that his chance at a potential National League Rookie of the Year award factored somewhere in his thinking.

"It could be a little bit," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you -- a little bit. But the main thing to me is my future -- my teammates, career, that's what's coming first. My family and then those things."

Pujols back in lineup after missing one game

ST. LOUIS -- A cortisone shot often sidelines a player for three days. But Albert Pujols is not a typical player.

Pujols, who received a shot in his painful left elbow on Monday night, was back in the lineup after missing only one game. He started in his customary spots at first base and in the No. 3 spot in the batting order a night after sitting out in favor of Felipe Lopez.

Pujols initially injured his elbow in Pittsburgh in late August and he aggravated the condition a few days later in Washington. The hope is that the shot will be enough to get him through to the end of the season.

"[He's] ready to play," said manager Tony La Russa. "I'm sure he still has some discomfort, but he's playing."

Franklin heads home to tend to personal matter

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin returned to his home in Oklahoma to tend to a personal matter Wednesday and will not return until at least Friday, manager Tony La Russa said. La Russa did not disclose anything further about the nature of the matter.

In Franklin's absence, the Cardinals will "mix and match" in the ninth inning, though Kyle McClellan would seem to be the primary candidate to get any save chances.

"I think Kyle's got the best shot at it," La Russa said. "But he's so good against right and lefts that you might need him before then, if you don't use a left-handed reliever. I just hope we have a bunch of chances."

Franklin has 24 saves in 26 chances this year. He sports a 3.55 ERA with 27 strikeouts against eight walks in 58 1/3 innings.

Baby birds

ST. LOUIS -- Triple-A Memphis, the only Cardinals affiliate still playing in the Minor League playoffs, lost the opener of the Pacific Coast League championship series on Tuesday, 5-3, to Tacoma. The entirety of the series will be played at Memphis' home ballpark, but for Games 1 and 2, Memphis is considered the visiting team and bats first.

Evan MacLane was dinged for five runs on eight hits in 4 1/3 innings, allowing a pair of home runs. Donovan Solano and Mark Hamilton each had two hits for the Redbirds in the defeat.

Solano earns player of the day honors. Starting at shortstop, Solano went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. In the regular season, he batted .255 with a .283 on-base percentage and a .333 slugging percentage, but he's hitting .533 in the playoffs. He signed with the Cardinals as a non-drafted free agent in 2005.

Worth noting

Randy Winn (right field) and Felipe Lopez (third base) got starts on Wednesday as a result of their career numbers against Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano. Lopez entered the game 14-for-42 with a .594 slugging percentage against the righty, and Winn was 7-for-15 with an .800 slugging percentage. ... Manager Tony La Russa returned the pitcher (Chris Carpenter) to the No. 9 spot in the batting order on Wednesday after several games of hitting the pitcher eighth. ... Carpenter was named to the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame on Wednesday.