10/04/12 6:53 PM ET
Cards have two southpaws vs. left-heavy Braves
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
The club gave some consideration to adding starter Jaime Garcia to the roster for use in a possible lefty-specialist situation. Ultimately, however, St. Louis made the decision to leave him off so that Garcia would be sufficiently rested for the National League Division Series, if the Cardinals advance there.
Garcia would likely pitch Game 2 of the NLDS. That game -- which would be played at home vs. Washington -- is scheduled for Monday.
"It was a conversation we had. It didn't last long," manager Mike Matheny said of Garcia's candidacy for this one-day, 25-man Wild Card roster. "It just didn't make a lot of sense to us at this time."
The Cardinals have not relied heavily on their left-handed relievers over the past two months because of the way they have constructed the back end of the bullpen. With a lead, righties Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte have covered the final three innings regardless of what matchups are presented.
"We believe in the back half of our bullpen," Matheny said. "When we get to the seventh inning, we've had some very good success letting these guys face left-handed and right-handed hitters, so it didn't really matter."
Of the first five hitters in the Braves' likely starting lineup on Friday, three hit from the left side and a fourth (Chipper Jones) is among the greatest switch-hitters in baseball history. Atlanta should also have several strong left-handed bats -- Brian McCann, Eric Hinske and Juan Francisco - available off the bench.
Cards settle on 25-man Wild Card game roster
ATLANTA -- Needing to set a roster exclusively for one game, the Cardinals settled on a breakdown that includes 10 pitchers and 15 position players.
The opportunity to add to the bullpen and the bench is a byproduct of not needing to keep several starting pitchers on the roster, as is the case in later postseason rounds. The Cardinals' 25-man roster for Friday will include only two starters: Kyle Lohse and Lance Lynn.
Lynn, who last pitched Sunday, will have had a normal four days of rest leading into Friday's game. He'd be a long-relief option should the Cardinals have to pull Lohse early, or if the game extends beyond nine innings.
The breakdown of pitchers and position players will be as follows:
Pitchers: Lohse, Lynn, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, Edward Mujica, Marc Rzepczynski, Sam Freeman, Joe Kelly, Fernando Salas and Trevor Rosenthal.
Position players: Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz, Bryan Anderson, Allen Craig, Daniel Descalso, Skip Schumaker, Pete Kozma, David Freese, Ryan Jackson, Matt Carpenter, Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers.
With seven bench players, manager Mike Matheny will have the flexibility to be aggressive in making double switches, sending out pinch-runners or setting up optimal late-game batter-pitcher matchups. In other words, this winner-move-on game will be more akin to managing a game with expanded rosters in September than a regular-season contest earlier in the season.
"We know the necessity to make tomorrow like a Game 7, but there is also still a balance of let's play the game. Let's play another game," Matheny said. "It's worked for us through the season. It's worked for us down the stretch here in September, just to continue to play the game and not try to reinvent the wheel. But with that being said, we all know when you have one game to try to turn it into an extended October, you do things differently."
Kozma part of Matheny's Wild Card game lineup
ATLANTA -- The same middle-infield combination that manager Mike Matheny rode for the better part of last month is the same one he'll stick with for Friday's one-game Wild Card matchup against Atlanta.
Prior to the team's workout on Thursday, Matheny revealed his lineup, which includes Daniel Descalso at second base and Pete Kozma making his postseason debut as the starting shortstop.
The construction of the lineup presented little other suspense, as it does not deviate from the batting order Matheny has regularly used of late. Center fielder Jon Jay will lead off, and be followed by Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina, David Freese, Descalso, Kozma and Kyle Lohse.
Atlanta's lineup will feature a somewhat unexpected sub, as Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez announced that David Ross, not Brian McCann, will catch Kris Medlen. Gonzalez said Ross' defensive ability -- particularly how well he can control an opponent's running game -- was a significant factor in the decision.
McCann's health is also a factor, as he is not near 100 percent healthy; he's dealing with right shoulder discomfort due to a cyst. Taking McCann out of the lineup eliminates one left-handed hitter for Lohse.
Berkman among those to accompany Cards to Atlanta
ATLANTA -- The Cardinals' traveling party of players was much greater than the 25 that will be on the Wild Card roster on Friday. That's by design.
Those who are still recovering from injury -- Kyle McClellan, Rafael Furcal, Lance Berkman and Jake Westbrook -- all made the trip to Atlanta. McClellan and Furcal, both of whom have been sidelined by right elbow injuries, will not be able to help the club this postseason. Westbrook and Berkman are unlikely to, as well, though their potential participation has not yet been ruled out.
Before his teammates took batting practice on Thursday afternoon, Westbrook played catch on the Turner Field outfield grass. It's an early step in his second attempted return from a right oblique strain, but Westbrook could build himself back to be considered for a bullpen job if the Cardinals play deep into the month.
Berkman, who was sent to the plate in a ceremonial pinch-hit appearance on Thursday, is still battling soreness in his right knee. If he can get to the point where he can be an asset off the bench, Berkman could work his way onto a roster in a later postseason round. Still, his return remains unlikely.
Other players who accompanied the team but who are not going to be on the roster include starting pitchers Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia. None are needed in a one-game scenario, though they will be allowed to join their teammates in the dugout for Friday's game.
A day after throwing 72 pitches in his first Major League start, Shelby Miller was also at Turner Field. He could be considered for a bullpen spot later in the postseason but was not under consideration to be on the Wild Card roster because of Wednesday's workload.
The Cardinals held a one-hour workout at Turner Field on Thursday afternoon, shortly after the Braves took the field for their own team batting practice. Players and team personnel left the ballpark around 5 p.m. ET for the day.
Lohse celebrated his 34th birthday on Thursday, the day before he will take the mound in the Cardinals' Wild Card game against the Braves. He made light of the occasion during his afternoon press conference, joking that he'll be a year older and wiser for his next appearance.
Freese, who missed five games due to a sprained right ankle, said his ankle gave him no issue over the last four days of the regular season. Freese played in three of those final four games. He was among the group of starting position players to sit on Wednesday.
For a second straight postseason, the Cardinals are encouraging organizations, businesses and schools to participate in Cardinals RED (Rally Everyone Day) for Kids on Friday. The program, which offers a chance for people to give a donation in order to "dress down" in red, has raised nearly $15,000 since its inception last year. For more information about the program and/or to register, go to www.cardinals.com/red.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.