CHICAGO -- Things are already looking up for Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. He's going home, and he's tweeting.

Acting manager Joe Pettini, who is serving in La Russa's stead while the longtime skipper takes some time off to recuperate from shingles, said Wednesday that La Russa was leaving Phoenix to head back to St. Louis. La Russa had been in the Phoenix area for evaluation and treatment for his illness, as well as for an unrelated routine physical exam.

"He sounded better," said Pettini, who has stayed in regular touch with La Russa. "When I called, he was on his way to the airport to head back to St. Louis. He did sound better, and he told me he's taking all the medication that they've given him. He's going to go back there and keep up with that and get some rest. But he did sound better."

The club has asked media members to refrain from contacting La Russa this week. Instead, he went straight to Twitter to give an update on his status.

"Much appreciate all who have shown concern," he wrote. "Besides discomfort, biggest issue is too much attention!"

Franklin gets back on mound, eases 'pen strain

CHICAGO -- The right situation finally came along for Ryan Franklin.

The Cardinals had been looking for a way to get their former closer into a game, but they had no intention to force it. Franklin hadn't made an appearance since May 1 when he entered Wednesday's game against the Cubs, which the Cardinals lost, 11-4.

"The No. 1 priority is to win the game," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "You use the pitching how you think you have to use it to win the game. You can't just arbitrarily say, 'Oh well, OK, we're going to do this.' The situation has got to be there. Unfortunately the games we've been playing have been close games. And I think under the circumstances, that's not the ideal situation to use him in."

Franklin got three innings of mop-up work on Wednesday, allowing four runs but helping ease the strain on a bullpen that could have been decimated following Jake Westbrook's early exit.

"I've got to give him a pat on the back," said acting manager Joe Pettini. "He hadn't pitched in a while, hadn't gotten a whole lot of work. He went out there and struggled a little bit, but he's the one who talked 'Dunc' into going back out there for an extra inning. He was really trying to help save an extra pitcher being used tonight."

Franklin wants to pitch as often as he can but said that he understands the situation. He threw a bullpen session on Sunday, and that was the last time before Wednesday that he had thrown off a mound.

"I know that it's a long year," he said. "Just got to wait it out."

Molina knows role, but fire to play still burns

CHICAGO -- Yadier Molina understands why he's getting more time off this year. It doesn't mean he has to like it.

Backup catcher Gerald Laird received his ninth start of the season on Wednesday, a change of pace from the Cardinals' usual way of doing things. A year ago, Jason LaRue didn't make his ninth start until June 20. The Cardinals are hoping that by making Molina's load lighter during the first two-thirds of the season, they'll have their starting catcher at full strength in August and September. Molina has repeatedly dealt with late-season injuries in recent years.

Molina understands. And he's not going to rock the boat. But all things being equal, he'd like to play as much as possible.

"For me not to play, I'm not in my office, you know?" he said. "Every time I'm in the lineup, I want to play. Every time I come to the field, I'm ready to play. So it doesn't matter if you've got a day off or not. You've got to be ready to play. ... That's what they pay me for."

The club has been delighted with how things have worked out so far.

"I think it's going to be a big help to Yadi," said acting manager Joe Pettini. "I think in years past, Yadi gets worn down a little bit. When you have somebody like Gerald who has filled in so well offensively and defensively, you're not afraid to sit Yadi at times. I think it's just going to be beneficial later on.

"He likes to be active, but it's a long season. And catchers especially, they get worn down."

Molina is expected to start each of the Cardinals' next four games, including Thursday afternoon's game at Wrigley Field.

Aggressiveness may limit walks for Sanchez

CHICAGO -- Eduardo Sanchez, currently the Cardinals' de facto closer, was not the sort of pitcher who walked a lot of batters in the Minor Leagues. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan believes that Sanchez doesn't have to be that type of pitcher in the big leagues, either.

Sanchez has racked up 10 walks already in 14 Major League innings, but Duncan said Wednesday that he believes it's more a matter of approach than command. Sanchez issued 12 walks in 30 Triple-A innings, and 28 in 76 innings at Double-A.

"When you look at his first two or three appearances that he made, he showed there that he was capable of attacking the hitters," Duncan said. "So you know he's capable of doing it. So is it a case of, the more he's around, the more careful he thinks he has to be or the more perfect he has to be? He's got to realize that, with his stuff, he can be a very aggressive pitcher."

In Duncan's opinion, Sanchez can throw his fastball aggressively early in counts, because his stuff and movement are good enough that hitters won't be able to do much with it. That, in turn, will put him in position to put hitters away with his slider.

Baby birds

• Matt Carpenter's four RBIs helped propel Triple-A Memphis to a 10-8 win against Sacramento on Tuesday. P.J. Walters' rough season continued, though, as the right-hander was dinged for seven runs on 10 hits in five innings. Walters has allowed at least four runs in three straight starts and in five of his seven on the year.

• Michael Blazek pitched six strong innings in Double-A Springfield's 3-1 win against Arkansas. Blazek allowed a run on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk.

• John Gast went seven innings, allowing a run on four hits, for the victory as Class A Palm Beach beat Clearwater, 5-1. Gast struck out four and walked two.

• Class A Quad Cities jumped out to an early lead and held on, getting three more hits from the absurdly hot Oscar Taveras in an 8-7 win against Clinton. However, Taveras was removed from the game when he aggravated the hamstring injury that cost him much of April. Seth Blair walked five but allowed one run on three hits over five innings for his first professional win.

Carpenter picks up player of the day honors. The Memphis third baseman was 3-for-4 with two doubles and four RBIs, keeping up a strong run of late. Carpenter is hitting .407 with a .579 on-base percentage in May. For the season, he has a .307 average, a .454 OBP and a .416 slugging percentage. Carpenter was a 13th-round pick by the Cardinals in the 2009 Draft.

Tidbits

• Ryan Theriot felt "a little bit of a bite ... in his rib cage" during Wednesday night's 11-4 loss to the Cubs, acting manager Joe Pettini said. Pettini was unsure whether the discomfort was in the same area that sidelined Theriot for three days in April, but did say it was likely that Theriot would sit out Thursday's series finale.

• Outfielder Oscar Taveras, one of the organization's more promising hitting prospects, was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday. Taveras suffered an aggravation of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of April.

• Acting manager Joe Pettini said that there is no particular urgency to get a start for infielder/outfielder Allen Craig, who is healthy again after hitting himself in the left calf with a foul ball.

• The Cardinals will stay on rotation for this weekend's series in Cincinnati, with Kyle Lohse pitching on Friday, Kyle McClellan on Saturday and Chris Carpenter in Sunday's road-trip finale.