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10/05/05 6:16 PM ET

King visits ill dad, ready to help club

Reliever makes peace with fact he might lose father soon

ST. LOUIS -- The next step for Ray King is the easy one. Get out on the mound, and pitch like he knows he can pitch. The last step was much harder.

King went home to Tennessee on Saturday to see his father, who is seriously ill with cancer. He made peace with the fact that he's likely to lose his dad sooner than later. He visited his mother, whom he calls a strong woman but for whom the situation is obviously extremely difficult.

Then he came back to St. Louis and started preparing to pitch for the Cardinals in the playoffs. He believes that his head has been cleared and that he's ready to reprise his role as one of the National League's best left-handed specialists.

"When I went home, that gave me the closure I needed," King said Wednesday after the Cardinals' workout between Games 1 and 2 of their NL Division Series against the Padres. "I think that turns over my whole attitude, perspective, my whole feeling about everything."

King moved his parents back home to Tennessee this year, where they can be surrounded by friends and family. Old family friends check in and provide support. King himself was only able to go back for a day, but it was an important day.

"I'm pretty much at ease with it now, and I accept it," he said. "I feel like I'm back to my happy-go-lucky [self]. I've been talking to my mom and my relatives, and whatever does happen, he's going to a better place than we're at.

"It really helped out a whole lot, getting home that day and spending the whole day there Saturday."

On Sunday, he was back on the mound, though only briefly. Adam Dunn flied out to the warning track, and King was out of the game. The Cardinals were off Monday and King didn't pitch Tuesday, so he needed to get some work. So King threw a bullpen session Wednesday afternoon, and pronounced himself ready for whatever may be thrown his way in Thursday's Game 2.

"If you throw so much, and then you go through a stretch where you play, day off, play, day off, you have a long period of time where you really don't do anything," he said. "Especially since I came in and faced Dunn and got one out. I was just working on getting some touch and feel. It's too late in the year to try to fine-tune anything."

Opponents hit .317 against King in the second half, including .389 with runners on base. The Cardinals need him, though, so if the situation calls, he'll be in there.

"We're not afraid to use him," said pitching coach Dave Duncan. "We're going to use him when the situation is there to use him. He's thrown on the side a couple of times and he's thrown the ball better.

"It may be that he's getting his personal stuff settled. But what it's going to boil down to is Ray getting out there and doing the job. And when he does it, his confidence is going to come back."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.