ST. LOUIS -- Fans may be frustrated with Marc Rzepczynski's usage patterns, but the Cardinals' new lefty has no such complaints. Rzepczynski has gotten used to the kind of work he's getting in St. Louis, alternating between specialist usage and long-relief duties.

"I'm just going out there when the phone rings," Rzepczynski said Wednesday, after pitching two mopup innings the night before. "I'm not frustrated. If I don't pitch for a couple days, I just know that the situation didn't come up. Last night the situation came up that we needed a few innings, and I was the guy that hadn't pitched in a few days, so I was able to."

Rzepczynski even found a bright side: working longer outings has allowed him to refine his changeup, turning it into a true third pitch in which he has real confidence.

As for the reasons for Rzepczynski's unusual work schedule, manager Tony La Russa said it comes down to a couple of factors. One, Rzepczynski has the sort of arsenal that allows him to pitch multiple innings. Two, the manager has significant confidence in Arthur Rhodes, who has emerged as the team's primary lefty specialist.

"He has potential as a starter at some point in his career," La Russa said. "And he can pitch to one or two hitters. That's exactly what he arrived as, with that potential, not to start this year but maybe in his future. Certainly looks like he's got starter material."

La Russa has in the recent past acknowledged an unwillingness to use certain key relievers, such as Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn, as long men. The worry is that by using such a pitcher for two or three innings, the team loses his services for several days. However, Rzepczynski hasn't established himself in that group -- in part because of the presence of Rhodes.

"You just look at what you have and who you're playing," La Russa said. "A lot of clubs don't have left-handers in the lineup. Some clubs do and you need to save him. For right now it's a great fit for our bullpen, because he can give innings or he can pitch one inning or he can pitch to one hitter. Depends on how well-rested he is and who you're playing."

Rzepczynski has made nine appearances, spanning nine innings, in 27 days since he was acquired from Toronto. That doesn't square with the perception at the time of the deal, that he was a critical piece of the trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays.

La Russa tweaks top of lineup for finale

ST. LOUIS -- Standing by his long-held belief that you can always do something more than what you're doing, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa made a little flip-flop to his lineup on Wednesday.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal got the call in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, rather than first, with Jon Jay leading off.

La Russa said he likes the "bat-handling" skills of Furcal in the two-hole, and he also thinks the adjusted alignment may reduce the chances for the Cardinals to hit into double plays. Furcal has been primarily a leadoff man this year and throughout his career.

"I think Furcal does a lot of good things handling the bat," La Russa said. "Probably bunts more often than Jay does. Not too drastic a change."

The manager said that he was not using the change as an attempt to get Furcal going by placing him in front of Albert Pujols in the batting order.

Tidbits

• Yadier Molina and David Freese both received scheduled, routine days off on Wednesday, with a day game in major heat following a night game.

• The Cardinals' game on Sunday, Sept. 18, in Philadelphia has been picked up by ESPN and will start at 7:09 p.m. CT, rather than in the afternoon.

• Allen Craig is one of two players in the Major Leagues, along with Detroit's Ryan Raburn, to appear at all six of the following positions in 2011: first base, second base, third base, left field, center field and right field.

Baby 'birds

• Triple-A Memphis broke out the lumber once again on Tuesday, drilling 13 hits in an 8-1 win over Albuquerque. Nick Stavinoha and Bryan Anderson each homered, and Brandon Dickson pitched seven excellent innings.

• Zack Cox hit two home runs, but Double-A Springfield lost a heartbreaker to Northwest Arkansas, 5-4. Springfield had a 4-3 lead going into the ninth inning. In his return from a suspension, Shelby Miller allowed two runs on two hits in four innings, striking out three and walking three.

• Class A Palm Beach's game against Bradenton was suspended after three innings.

• Cody Stanley and Oscar Taveras had three hits each, leading Class A Quad Cities past Beloit, 11-3. After a brief slump, Taveras has seven hits in his past two games.

• Short-season Batavia swept a doubleheader against Williamsport by identical 2-1 scores. Jeremy Patton had five hits on the day.

• Tyrell Jenkins struck out seven batters in five innings for rookie-level Johnson City, which beat Burlington, 6-4. Jenkins allowed three runs on four hits with two walks.

• Samuel Tuivailala homered, but the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals lost to the GCL Mets, 4-2.

Dickson is the player of the day, turning in a fine performance in a very tough place to pitch. He allowed one run on six hits, striking out eight without a walk. Dickson, 26, is 8-9 with a 3.73 ERA, 122 strikeouts and 32 walks in 154 1/3 innings. He signed with the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2006.