CHICAGO -- From 300 miles away, the Cardinals gave manager Tony La Russa a little surprise on Thursday afternoon.
Prior to the series finale between the Cardinals and Cubs, acting manager Joe Pettini didn't take the lineup card to home plate. Instead, pitcher Kyle Lohse did -- dressed in a La Russa costume. Lohse wore La Russa's jersey, sunglasses that resembled La Russa's trademark shades, and arranged his hair to look like La Russa's coif. The prank drew huge laughter in the Cardinals dugout, and even the opponents were amused.
"I've been doing the 'Tony hair' for a couple days," Lohse said. "Just trying to keep it loose in here. My hair is getting out of control. I realized that when I didn't gel it up, it hangs over my ears. So you hang the hat on it and you've got Tony."
Pettini at first discouraged Lohse from going through with the joke, but eventually he was convinced to give in. He said that shortly after the game he had already heard from La Russa, who is away from the Cardinals for the remainder of this week while he rests and recuperates from a case of shingles. Pettini joked that La Russa might remove him from his acting managerial duties before acknowledging that the stunt was well-received.
"I think he got a kick out of it. I wouldn't have let it happen at first, but all of them were saying, 'Come on! Tony will get a kick out of it,' and he did. You need to laugh."
Chicago manager Mike Quade also didn't take the card out, instead sending bench coach Pat Listach.
"It shocked me to death," Quade said. "I thought they had him under quarantine. It looked just like him. I was busy getting ready and I'm almost mad I didn't go up there. That was pretty good."
Theriot rests with recurrence of oblique issue
CHICAGO -- Ryan Theriot insisted that the recurrence of discomfort in his right oblique muscle is "nothing," but it was still enough to keep him out of the Cardinals' lineup on Thursday.
Theriot felt a tug in the muscle during Wednesday night's 11-4 loss to the Cubs and was removed from the game. He was held out again on Thursday, with Tyler Greene starting in his place at shortstop. He missed three starts in late April due to pain in the area but said that it's less of an issue this time around.
"It's the same nothing," Theriot said. "Before it was a little bit more than nothing. Now it's nothing."
Even so, he could be held out of Friday's series opener in Cincinnati as well. Cardinals acting manager Joe Pettini said Thursday that the club will exercise significant caution with its leadoff hitter, especially given that Theriot is dealing with the soreness for a second time.
"We'll just have to wait and see what happens," Pettini said. "It's still early in the season, and you've got to be careful. You want these guys down the stretch later on, without missing an extended period."
Nick Punto and Lance Berkman were both held out of Thursday's lineup as well, as the Cards rested the veterans for the early afternoon start following a late night game.
Craig makes atypical start at second base
CHICAGO -- Cardinals acting manager Joe Pettini was prepared. He knew, even before his pregame media briefing began on Thursday, what the first question would be.
Allen Craig, he of the five career professional appearances in the middle infield, was Pettini's starting second baseman for the afternoon game against the Cubs. The club could have started Daniel Descalso at second and Craig at third, but instead went the other way around. So Pettini was ready with an explanation and some stats to back it up.
"We've got a left-handed pitcher and they've got a mostly right-handed-hitting lineup," Pettini said. "If you look at [Jaime Garcia's] starts... there's been about 25 balls hit to third base, nine hit to second base. Danny's been playing a pretty good third base. Allen is more of an outfielder anymore, but he can play the infield. The arm strength is more suited for second base, even though he hasn't had much experience turning double plays."
Craig had two balls hit at him Thursday. He started a double play on one and had the other kick off his glove for a single. He was replaced by Nick Punto in the sixth inning.
Craig played one inning at second base in 2010, and made one start there in short-season Class A. He played a decent amount of shortstop in college, but not much second even in those days.
"[I was] surprised because I haven't played there, but whatever it [takes] to be in the lineup," he said.
A club source said that the idea of Craig playing second base had been brought up earlier in the year but was dismissed. However, neither Ryan Theriot nor Punto was available to start on Thursday, leaving the Cardinals with limited options. Pettini and manager Tony La Russa, recuperating from shingles in St. Louis, settled on the unusual alignment.
Pettini acknowledged that if Theriot were available, Craig would not be playing second base. Instead, it's likely that Tyler Greene would be at second. He also said that in double-play situations, Descalso and Craig might switch positions in order to get the better defender at second base.
Cards' closer situation coming into focus
CHICAGO -- The pecking order in the Cardinals' bullpen is getting clearer.
To some extent, the club is still using a closer by committee, but Eduardo Sanchez has emerged as the chair of that committee. He's recorded four saves in four opportunities. Pitching coach Dave Duncan said Wednesday that when Sanchez is not available -- and that will happen sometimes, as the club will be careful with the 22-year-old -- he would prefer to turn to Mitchell Boggs or Fernando Salas in the ninth inning.
Boggs' profile has dropped significantly since a blown save in Houston, but he hasn't been forgotten. Duncan said he'd like to see a more consistent breaking ball from the right-hander.
As for right-hander Jason Motte, it appears that his current role is as the man who puts out fires. The club likes Motte's ability to come in during an inning with runners on base, a somewhat rough showing on Wednesday night notwithstanding.
"Last year he was very successful doing that, coming in in the middle of an inning and pitching out of it," Duncan said. "You have to kind of remember what he did there. Because there is a need for a guy like that."
Aaron Luna had two of Triple-A Memphis' six hits, all of them singles, in a 7-0 loss to Sacramento on Wednesday. Redbirds batters drew six walks, but also struck out nine times.
Double-A Springfield was off on Wednesday.
Zack Cox singled and doubled, and Jordan Swagerty pitched five solid innings, in Class A Palm Beach's 5-2 loss to Clearwater. Swagerty, making his debut at the high Class A level, allowed two runs on five hits, struck out six and didn't walk anyone.
Class A Quad Cities once again had to hold on after building a big early lead, beating Clinton, 7-6. Jonathan Rodriguez reached base four times and drove in three runs.
Rodriguez is the player of the day. He doubled twice, walked twice, scored a run and drove in three. The 21-year-old outfielder is batting .245 on the year, but he has a solid .385 on-base percentage and is slugging .439. Rodriguez was a 17th-round Draft pick out of a Florida junior college in 2009.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.