10/15/12 8:26 PM ET
Mujica acquisition marked turning point of 'pen
By Jenifer Langosch, Adam McCalvy and Tom Singer / MLB.com
Mujica, acquired on July 31 from the Marlins for Minor League infielder Zack Cox, began his tenure in St. Louis with 18 straight scoreless appearances. He settled into the seventh-inning setup role with ease, allowing manager Mike Matheny a better bridge from his starters to his two late-inning righties.
"He is someone who we identified as the right fit, not only from a statistical sense, but also on who he was as a person and the teammate he was," general manager John Mozeliak said before Game 2 on Monday. "After I made that trade, I remember I got a couple of texts from other GMs, and they said, 'Great guy.' That was really the key for us, because it was such a seamless transition for him into the seventh-inning role, and he really dominated at it."
Mujica, who is participating in his first postseason, had not had as defined a role in Miami as he has since arriving in St. Louis. He credits that consistency in usage, as well as his manager's belief in him, as reasons behind his immediate and sustained success as a Cardinal.
"The confidence when I get here, the confidence Matheny gave to me, is amazing," said Mujica, who struck out the side in his inning of relief in Sunday's 6-4 Game 1 win. "He told me what was going to be [the role] for me. And I tried to put my mind in that situation. I am so happy right now to be on this team, because we're just playing pretty good ball right now."
Cards keep Lynn in line to start Game 5
SAN FRANCISCO -- Though Lance Lynn was unable to make it through four innings in his start on Sunday, the Cardinals are not planning to make any changes to their National League Championship Series rotation. That means Lynn remains in line to start Game 5, which will be played in St. Louis on Friday.
Lynn has denied fatigue being an issue at any point this season, though workload is something that the Cardinals will continue to closely monitor. Lynn pitched only 109 2/3 innings during the 2011 regular season and another 11 during the 2011 postseason. This year, he surpassed that total before the end of July.
As a result, Lynn, in his first year as a Major League starter, sits fewer than 17 innings away from hitting the 200-inning mark.
"It's something that we have to be cognizant of," general manager John Mozeliak said of Lynn's workload. "I think getting the break into the bullpen at the end of the year did help him. But, clearly, when you go from the amount of innings that he had last year to where he's at, that's a lot of workload. But he is a horse. Hopefully it's not something that we have to run him out of gas."
Because Lynn has, Sunday's outing excluded, been able to regularly maintain his command deep into games, the Cardinals have not become overly concerned by the stress of the workload yet. What has been more of a challenge for Lynn lately is finding a routine that fits with his fluctuation of roles.
He went from the rotation to the bullpen in August before ending the regular season back as a starter. He then started the postseason in a relief role before being summoned to start in this series.
"That's not easy on anybody," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's had an opportunity to grow through some of the things we've thrown at him, like going to the 'pen. He knows he has to do whatever he can to help us win."
Cards' relievers hearing it from Giants fans
SAN FRANCISCO -- When the National League Championship Series shifts to St. Louis beginning Wednesday (3 p.m. CT on FOX), it will mean much friendlier confines for the cadre of Cardinals relievers.
San Francisco's AT&T Park features bullpens along the foul lines, meaning Cardinals relievers warm up within feet of enemy fans. For this, teams have former Giants managing partner Peter Magowan to thank. He wanted an intimate ballpark setting a la Chicago's Wrigley Field, where the bullpens are -- yep -- along the foul lines.
"I played here before, two years with San Diego, and we came a lot of times. But right now, during postseason, it's different, because they get louder," said Cardinals right-hander Edward Mujica. "They're talking to me in Spanish. It's crazy."
What do they say?
"I can't say this on TV," Mujica said.
Said Cardinals closer Jason Motte: "It's good stuff. It's all part of it. They're out there trying to get in your head, but I think it's kind of funny. You go out there, and they yell at you telling you how bad you are. It's a good time."
Motte & Co. had the last word in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday, combining for 5 1/3 innings of scoreless, two-hit relief in the Cardinals' 6-4 win.
Giants relievers will have a bit more protection at Busch Stadium beginning with Game 3, where the bullpens are in enclosed areas beyond the center-field fence.
Matheny back where concussions ended career
SAN FRANCISCO -- In a strange way, Mike Matheny may not have been managing the Cardinals against the Giants on Monday at AT&T Park if not for his experience playing there with the Giants in 2006.
Matheny was knocked out of baseball's player ranks by concussions -- as many as 25 of them over the course of a 17-year professional career. He suffered the last of them in May 2006, when Matheny absorbed three foul tips off his catcher's mask in the span of six games.
"I didn't plan on being one of the poster boys for that," Matheny said. "That wasn't part of my exit strategy from the game. But it did happen."
In the years since, Major League Baseball and other organizations have adopted much more proactive approaches to head injuries. In 2011, MLB added a seven-day disabled list for concussions and adopted a series of protocols to govern the treatment of players who suffer from them.
"It is a heightened awareness, I believe, not just in our sport, but all across the board," Matheny said. "And I think people are starting to get to the point to realize this is a brain injury. The term 'concussion,' I think, almost lightens what's really going on there. It is not necessarily a severe brain injury, but it can lead to it if not looked at seriously."
Matheny praised Giants general manager Brian Sabean and then-head athletic trainer Stan Conte for being "forward-thinking" about his own health issues, but Matheny was never able to play again. He took a job in the Cardinals' player development department and was named the club's manager last Oct. 31, after Tony La Russa retired.
Descalso, Crawford go way back, on soccer field
SAN FRANCISCO -- Having both grown up in the Bay Area, Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford and Cardinals second baseman Daniel Descalso often crossed each other's paths on fields of play, which does not come as a surprise.What is unexpected is that the competing National League Championship Series infielders' first encounter wasn't on a diamond, but on a pitch -- as in, soccer field. "Yeah, we were teammates when we were like 5 years old," said Crawford, adding that their positions were "everything. At that age, you kinda rotate positions. It was like T-ball in baseball. "That was a long time ago and, no, I didn't remember. But when I ended up playing against him, like 10 years later in Babe Ruth Baseball and an AAU championship, my dad reminded me." Between the 25-year-olds, Descalso is slightly older -- he will turn 26 during this NLCS, in fact. Descalso also is more accessorized, having already earned a ring with the Cardinals last October. The two are remarkably similar, right down to the oddity of being lefty-hitting middle infielders, which require being right-handed throwers. So when Crawford describes his old soccer teammate, he could be describing himself. "He's a great player," Crawford said. "Scrappy. He kind of defines the Cardinals and how they play, just grinds out hits, has power and plays good defense."
Jake Westbrook is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Wednesday afternoon at Busch Stadium. Westbrook, who is recovering from a right oblique strain, has thrown three pain-free bullpen sessions since returning to the mound. The Cardinals are continuing to prepare Westbrook to pitch in case there is a need to add him to the playoff roster later this month.
Lefty Jaime Garcia said he will travel back to St. Louis with the club following Game 2 on Monday and will then fly to Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday in order to have noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews provide another opinion on his ailing left shoulder. Garcia said he hopes he will be able to return to St. Louis in time to be on the bench for Game 3 on Wednesday.
Garcia is expected to undergo shoulder surgery later this month but asked to see Dr. Andrews before committing to any procedure. Other doctors have already diagnosed the left-hander with a rotator cuff strain and shoulder inflammation.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.