NEW YORK -- The Cardinals are approaching the part of the season where one of manager Tony La Russa's mantras kicks in. La Russa prefers to spend the season's first four months making sure that all of his players get plenty of work and stay in the mix, while also allowing his regulars all the opportunities he can give them to work through struggles.

Starting right about this time, however, La Russa leans more than ever on a simple philosophy: "Whoever plays the best, plays the most." That's beginning to take hold in center field, where Jon Jay is getting more starts and the slumping Colby Rasmus is getting fewer. Rasmus has started three of the Cardinals' six games since the All-Star break, while Jay made his fourth start since the break on Thursday -- one of those in right field.

"It's a good problem to have," La Russa said. "I feel confident in both guys' play. I think Jon has been playing consistently well. ... [Rasmus] is putting a lot of effort into the games. At this point, you start getting into the second half of the season, it comes down to performance and productivity. I'm certainly not going to make Colby a bench player, because if he gets it going, he can be a game-winner by himself. I'll keep both guys active, see what happens."

One tough aspect of the mix is that Rasmus has been more effective against left-handed pitchers than against righties this year -- yet Jay has been better against lefties than Rasmus has been. So with the Mets' Jon Niese on the mound Thursday, Jay got the start.

"This is a tough lefty," La Russa said. "I don't think I'm doing Colby a favor by running him out there."

Theriot serves one game after dropping appeal

NEW YORK -- In an unusual move, Major League Baseball has agreed to reduce Ryan Theriot's recent suspension from two games to one in exchange for Theriot dropping his appeal of the punishment. Theriot is being disciplined for his actions in Sunday's game against the Reds.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wrote Theriot into his initial lineup Thursday, and Theriot came to Citi Field expecting to play. But the infielder received a text message from his agent about the opportunity to cut the suspension, and he accepted that option. Daniel Descalso took his spot in the lineup at shortstop, with Nick Punto moving up from the No. 8 spot in the batting order to leadoff.

"Serving one game," Theriot said, "rather than taking a chance of it being two games."

An appeal would not have taken place until at least next week, most likely. Instead, the Cardinals can put the matter behind them. Theriot was ejected from Sunday's game for arguing a call at second base, and made contact with umpire Mike Muchlinski in the course of the argument.

Joe Torre, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations, said that Theriot's record of conduct played a part in the decision. Theriot had never previously been suspended.

"You take everything into consideration," Torre said. "[The] past, if it's a habitual [offender] -- you look at a lot of stuff, and you do a lot of it by gut feeling. I never want to get caught in, 'Well this is two days because that was two days.' We take every one separately. We just look at it."

Theriot will be eligible to return to the lineup on Friday, when the Cardinals begin a series against the Pirates.

Lohse flies to St. Louis to have finger checked

NEW YORK -- Kyle Lohse traveled to St. Louis on Thursday morning, rather than accompanying his teammates to Pittsburgh later in the afternoon, in order to be checked out for inflammation of his right middle finger by team medical personnel.

As the Cardinals prepared to play the Mets, Lohse was packing his belongings and headed to the airport. He was scheduled to be examined on Thursday afternoon in St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported that Lohse would be checked out.

"Don't know anything," manager Tony La Russa said Thursday afternoon. "Just know he's getting checked."

La Russa acknowledged that Lohse's scheduled start on Sunday against the Pirates may be in jeopardy. The club could use Lance Lynn or P.J. Walters to start that game, or could call up someone from the Minor Leagues.

"[Lohse] didn't sound real concerned," La Russa said, "but how can you not be concerned? It's on his throwing-hand finger. I think you've got to give serious consideration to who's going to take the ball on Sunday."

Reached by text message on Thursday, Lohse wrote that he would "know more later." The club had some concern about a finger issue during his start on Tuesday night in New York, and in fact an athletic trainer came out to check on him during the game. However, Lohse dismissed the concern after the game.

La Russa maintains faith in struggling Salas

NEW YORK -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Thursday morning that he hopes to get Fernando Salas another chance to close a game for the Redbirds as soon as possible. Salas has been less effective recently than earlier in the year, but the manager expressed no lack of confidence in his closer.

"I hope he gets a chance to save this one today," La Russa said prior to the Cards' series finale against New York.

"He's not a stranger to clubs. They've watched some videos, they've probably got an idea. But he's still quality."

Salas, 26, converted 11 of his first 12 save chances. In his first 25 appearances in 2011, he recorded 31 strikeouts, nine walks, posted a 1.82 ERA and did not allow a home run. Over the past five weeks, however, his performance has dipped. He has four losses and two blown saves in his last 16 appearances, allowing five home runs in 17 1/3 innings.

The second-year right-hander took the loss on Wednesday when he allowed a solo, walk-off home run to Angel Pagan in the 10th inning for a 6-5 Mets win. That followed a perfect ninth. The Cardinals have preferred to avoid having Salas pitch more than one inning at a time.

Baby birds

• Tyler Greene went 3-for-4 with two doubles on Wednesday, helping Triple-A Memphis beat Omaha, 6-4. Greene is batting .317 with a .408 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage for Memphis this year.

• Shane Robinson was 5-for-5 with two home runs, and Zack Cox had a homer and a double among his three hits as Double-A Springfield pounded Tulsa, 12-1. Shelby Miller walked five but allowed just one run on four hits over 5 1/3 innings.

• Class A Palm Beach rallied for five runs in the eighth to force extra innings, then finished off a 6-5 win against Brevard County in the 10th. Carlos Martinez had a rough start, allowing four runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings. Martinez walked four and did not strike anyone out.

• Five different players hit home runs to help Class A Quad Cities throttle Lake County, 15-3. Oscar Taveras had one of those homers, plus a double and a single. Taveras is hitting .390 in 41 games with a .432 on-base percentage and a .579 slugging percentage.

• Jeremy Patton's three doubles and four RBIs helped send short-season Batavia past Jamestown, 7-3.

• Steven Ramos homered in rookie-level Johnson City's 5-3 loss to Princeton.

• The rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals were off on Wednesday.

Robinson is an easy choice for player of the day as he works his way back up the ladder. The outfielder is recovering from injuries he suffered in an early-season collision with Andrew Brown. He's 14-for-25 in six games at Springfield. Robinson, 26, was a fifth-round Draft pick out of Florida State in 2006.