ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals rookie pitcher Joe Kelly has done just about everything in his short tenure on the mound. In college, he closed for Cal-Riverside. In the Minors and for much of his rookie season with the Cardinals, he started.

Now he's somewhere in between. Kelly has become a key middle man for the Cards this postseason, with five relief appearances spanning 5 2/3 innings. On Monday, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, he had a new-old experience: pitching on back-to-back days. It was the first time Kelly had pitched without a day off in between appearances since he was at Riverside.

"I feel good," he said. "It was good to see what I could do in back-to-back [days]. I felt like I had some success in being able to pitch out of jams."

Kelly has helped serve as a bridge between the starters and the late-game relief corps that has been so effective this postseason. In each of his past three appearances, he has entered before the sixth inning.

Cardinals' bullpen shouldering heavy load

ST. LOUIS -- It's a familiar story, but that doesn't mean it's not a little concerning. Cardinals relievers have worked very hard so far this postseason.

In eight games, the St. Louis bullpen has pitched 34 innings, compared to 36 for the team's starters. That formula worked well for the 2011 Redbirds en route to a World Series championship, but that was by necessity, not choice.

Ideally, the starters will get deep into games, and manager Mike Matheny will be able to use his relievers a little more sparingly. That could start Wednesday with Kyle Lohse, who delivered St. Louis' only quality start (at least six innings, no more than three earned runs) this postseason.

"The days off that you have in the postseason, like today, you do get an opportunity for your bullpen to get rest," Matheny said Tuesday. "So we're not as concerned about that as much as we know that if our starters aren't going deep, then we're giving up runs. ... Your foundation is your starting pitching. And you have strong starting pitching, you have an opportunity to be successful."

Mitchell Boggs is tied for the Major League lead with six appearances in these playoffs, and Edward Mujica and Joe Kelly have each pitched five times in eight games. Cards relievers have posted a 2.12 ERA in the postseason.

Reserves get key at-bats on Cardinals' off-day

ST. LOUIS -- Jake Westbrook threw a simulated game at Busch Stadium on Tuesday afternoon, and nominally it was to benefit the rehabbing right-hander. In reality, it was also a real help to a number of his teammates.

The Cardinals' bench players took their hacks at Westbrook, offering them a much-needed chance to see some pitching. St. Louis' reserves have played very little this postseason. Among players not in the everyday lineup, Skip Schumaker has the most plate appearances, with six. Matt Carpenter has five, Shane Robinson four, Adron Chambers one and Tony Cruz has yet to bat.

Those five, plus Lance Berkman, got some swings against Westbrook in the afternoon. The hope is that while it's not game experience, it will help the players get ready for what could be critical at-bats. Carpenter and Schumaker, two key contributors in the season, are 1-for-11 in the playoffs.

"Matt's a great weapon for us," said manager Mike Matheny. "And also the time of his use goes along with his flexibility defensively. You've got to look at Skip Schumaker the same way, but being able to put a Matt Carpenter in as a double switch late in the game if we have to do that to keep our closer in, that goes into play of when we can use him."

Pep rally, concert part of Cards' Game 3 festivities

ST. LOUIS -- In typical fashion, downtown St. Louis and the Cardinals will celebrate another round of playoff baseball on Wednesday. The club announced Tuesday the plans for pregame and in-game festivities for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, which is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. CT at Busch Stadium.

Before the game, there will be a pep rally in the Ballpark Village area, featuring photo opportunities with the 2011 World Series trophy, a concert and appearances by Cardinals alumni and a Budweiser Clydesdale. That begins at 12:30 p.m.

Gates for the game open at 1 p.m., and pregame ceremonies get under way at 2:40 p.m. On-field events will include the introduction of Cardinals Hall of Famers and a ceremonial first pitch by Danny Cox, who pitched in the 1985 and '87 NLCS for St. Louis. Country artist Joe Nichols will sing "The Star-Spangled Banner," and Generald Wilson will sing "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Fans will receive a "rally towel" upon entering the stadium.