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08/29/11 5:48 PM ET

Inbox: Who makes Redbirds' starting five?

Beat reporter Matthew Leach answers Cardinals fans' questions

• E-mail a question about the Cardinals

Welcome to the Cardinals Inbox. As always, if you have a question, use the link below to submit it -- and please be sure to include your first name, last initial and hometown. If you send a regular e-mail, rather than using the form, be certain to use the word "mailbag" in the subject header -- otherwise your mail may be directed to the spam folder or possibly be ignored in an unbecoming manner. Also, please understand that literally hundreds of e-mails arrive every week, so they can't all be used in the inbox or receive personal responses.

With The Hold Steady's "Almost Killed Me" playing on the speakers, let's get on with the questions.

Who will be the Cardinals' starting five next year? Will they pick up the options on Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter? Will they re-sign Edwin Jackson? Is Shelby Miller a possible starting pitcher for next year?
-- Elyasaf M., St. Louis

The best guess here is that you already know what the starting rotation will be: Wainwright, Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook. The club fully expects to pick up Wainwright's option, although that's not officially a done deal yet. And most likely, the front office will find some way to bring back Carpenter, even if it's not by exercising his option.

Other possibilities exist, of course. A trade could happen. Some other team could overwhelm Carpenter with an offer. But odds are, the 2012 rotation will look just like the rotation the Cardinals used at the end of '10.

As for Miller, there's no rush there. I wouldn't rule out seeing him at some point during the 2012 season, maybe as a September callup, but he is exceedingly unlikely to crack the season-opening rotation.

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If the Cards don't make the playoffs this year (and it is starting to look that way), is Tony La Russa done as manager in St. Louis? Let's face it, with the talent that the Cardinals have had over the last six years, it has been disappointing to say the least. If that happens, is it time for Jose Oquendo to take over? I think he deserves a chance. Thanks.
-- Tyler N., Knoxville, Ill.

To answer your question the way I believe you're asking it, no. If the Cardinals fall short this year, the club will still not dismiss La Russa. It's my understanding that the situation remains the same as always: If he wants to come back, he's invited back.

Does that mean that he's definitely coming back in 2012? Of course not. He'll deliberate and decide, and it's possible he'll choose not to return. But nothing has happened that leads me to believe that the club's stance on La Russa has changed.

As for the post-La Russa era, they'd have to give Oquendo an interview. But I do not buy what seems to be a popular notion, that Oquendo is a shoo-in or the unofficial manager-in-waiting. He'll be a candidate, but not the only one, and I don't expect he'd even be the favorite.

I was just wondering how long you think it will take for Oscar Taveras to get to the big leagues. And is he a five-tool prospect?
-- Darryl L., Long Beach, Calif.

Given that Taveras has one steal this year, you probably wouldn't call him a "five-tool prospect," but so what? He has the most important tool: He can hit. He's abused the Midwest League all year, and he currently stands at .380 with a .440 on-base percentage and a .584 slugging percentage. That's pretty absurd for a 19-year-old, one of the youngest players in the league. He's showed more power in the second half than he did in the first, an encouraging sign.

As for an ETA, it's really not even fair to say at this point. To reiterate, he's 19 and he's in low Class A. Let's see how he handles a couple of tough jumps, to the very hitter-unfriendly Florida State League, and then to Double-A. He's a very exciting high-upside player, but he's also still a long way from the Majors.

Greetings from Alaska. Two questions -- one, is there any long-term plan for either Marc Rzepczynski or Lance Lynn to become starters? I love their potential in the bullpen, but let's face it, a starter is much more valuable. And two, is Fernando Salas the long-term plan for closer, or will Mitchell Boggs and/or Jason Motte be reconsidered following the season? Thanks for taking the e-mail.
-- Matt K., Eagle River, Alaska

There was a third question in here, but I answered it separately a little earlier in this Inbox. So let's get on with the other two.

Yes, I do believe that both Rzepczynski and Lynn will, at some point, be considered as starting options. I don't, however, believe that point will be at the start of 2012. They both project as valuable relief arms for next season, when, as discussed above, the bulk of the Cardinals' rotation appears set.

As for the ninth inning, you're already starting to see an answer to your question. Motte got a save over the weekend, and I won't be surprised to see him get more of those chances as the final month goes on. The closing spot for 2012 is definitely not set, and I'd expect Motte and Salas both to figure into the conversation.

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.