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Cards to exercise Molina option; TLR welcome back

The Cardinals celebrated Sunday, but business gets back to normal for general manager John Mozeliak on Monday. That includes plenty of dealing with free agents, and trying to secure the team’s coaching staff for 2012. It also includes the matter of dealing with some club options.

One of those options is a slam dunk. Mozeliak said that he expects to exercise catcher Yadier Molina’s 2012 option on Monday. The option is worth $7 million, with a buyout of $750,000, and is the final year of a contract Molina signed before the 2008 season.

The club also holds options on relievers Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel, neither of which is likely to be exercised. However, the Cards could approach either or both about a return at a lower cost.

Additionally, Mozeliak made the club’s unsurprising stance on manager Tony La Russa clear: the team hopes to have its skipper back for a 17th season. La Russa and the team hold a mutual contract option for 2012.


Cards’ roster set

The Cardinals set their roster Sunday morning for the National League Championship Series, and as expected the club made two adjustments.


Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn were both added to the St. Louis bullpen, while second baseman Skip Schumaker and pitcher Jake Westbrook were removed from the roster. McClellan is returning from a bout with “dead arm,” while Lynn had been sidelined since August due to a strained left oblique muscle.


To make room for Lynn on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals designated outfielder Andrew Brown for assignment. Lynn had been on the 60-day disabled list, and Sunday was the first day he was eligible to be activated.


The Cardinals’ complete NLCS roster is as follows:


Pitchers: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse, Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, McClellan, Lynn, Mitchell Boggs, Arthur Rhodes, Marc Rzepczynski.


Hitters: Yadier Molina, Gerald Laird, Albert Pujols, Ryan Theriot, Rafael Furcal, David Freese, Nick Punto, Daniel Descalso, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Lance Berkman, Allen Craig, Adron Chambers.



Schumaker expected to be out for NLCS

Skip Schumaker felt worse on Saturday than he did on Friday night, and as a result, he is expected to be left off the Cardinals’ roster for the National League Championship Series. That’s one of two changes the Cardinals are likely to make to the roster they used to beat the Phillies in their NL Division Series.

Schumaker suffered a strained right oblique muscle in Friday night’s win against the Phillies. He was unable to participate in any sort of on-field activities on Saturday, leading to the decision to sideline him for the NLCS. He will most likely be replaced by a pitcher. The Cardinals actually intend to add two pitchers to their roster, most likely Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn, while removing Schumaker and another pitcher. The primary candidate to be bumped from the pitching staff is apparently Jake Westbrook, who did not appear in the NLDS.

Thus the Cards would take 12 pitchers and 13 hitters into the NLCS, as opposed to an 11/14 breakdown in the Division Series. Other possibilities do still exist, including staying at 11 pitchers (and adding someone such as Tyler Greene to take Schumaker’s roster spot). Eduardo Sanchez will also receive some consideration. However, most likely is that McClellan and Lynn will be activated and the Cardinals will carry 12 pitchers.

Nick Punto and Ryan Theriot will be the primary candidates to get playing time in Schumaker’s stead.

“It was a little more sore this morning, no doubt about it,” Schumaker said. “I don’t know how long it’s going to be. It’s not the kind of thing where they can just tell you it’s a week or 10 days. Hopefully it’s just for this series but I couldn’t do any baseball activity today. That’s why it’s frustrating.”

(more to come on this at later this evening)


Cards’ NLDS roster: two on, one off

General manager John Mozeliak revealed Friday evening that it is “highly unlikely” that Kyle McClellan will be on the Division Series roster that the club submits to Major League Baseball on Saturday morning. McClellan has been dealing with what Mozeliak called “dead arm” symptoms, and struggled somewhat down the stretch.

Meanwhile, outfielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Rafael Furcal are both virtually certain to be on the roster following positive workouts on Friday. Holliday’s availability for a Game 1 start may be in some question, but the slugger is expected to be able to play in some capacity.

The Cardinals will likely take 11 pitchers and 14 position players into the series.


Carpenter to pitch Game 2

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa dropped a bit of a surprise on reporters on Friday when he announced that right-hander Chris Carpenter will pitch Game 2 of his team’s National League Division Series against the Phillies. Carpenter will be starting on three days’ rest for the first time in his Major League career.

Kyle Lohse will pitch Game 1 on Saturday, followed by Carpenter on Sunday. Jaime Garcia will make his first Major League playoff appearance in Tuesday’s Game 3 in St. Louis. La Russa did not disclose a Game 4 starter, though it almost certainly be either Edwin Jackson or Jake Westbrook — and much more likely Jackson than Westbrook. La Russa said that both men would be on the playoff roster and available to pitch in relief in Games 1 and 2.

Carpenter pitched a shutout on 105 pitches on Wednesday as the Cardinals clinched their playoff spot.

“A lot depended on Wednesday, and he had a real good game,” La Russa said Friday. “He felt strong at the end, so we didn’t really announce anything because we wanted to wait to see how he felt yesterday, wanted to wait to see how he feels today. And if he would have come in with any kind of stiffness, we would have gone a different direction.”

By pitching Carpenter in Game 2, the Cardinals provide for the option to use him on regular rest in a potential Game 5 in Philadelphia. Carpenter is 5-2 in nine career postseason starts with a 2.93 ERA.


Holliday UPDATED — “It’s not good news”

As the Cardinals continue to their run at the National League Wild Card, their degree of difficulty keeps getting higher. A day after losing Rafael Furcal to a hamstring injury, Matt Holliday was removed from Tuesday night’s game against the Astros because of pain in his right hand.

Manager Tony La Russa said that Holliday will not start Wednesday’s series finale against Houston, but would not speculate beyond that. The discomfort is apparently a recurrence of, or related to, an injury that Holliday dealt with earlier this month. He missed nine games due to an inflamed tendon in his right hand.

“I don’t know what this means, beyond [Allen] Craig is playing left field tomorrow,” manager Tony La Russa said. “But it’s not good news.”

Holliday reported additional discomfort in his hand prior to Wednesday’s game, but attempted to play.  However, after 2 1/2 innings and one at-bat, the situation became too problematic, and he was removed in favor of Craig.

“He didn’t take batting practice in a group, which should have told me something,” La Russa said. “I saw him, I’d already written the lineup, and he said, ‘I’ve got a little something.’ … Right then, I thought, I’m not sure if this is smart. We let him go out there, and not only did it bother him to swing, it bothered him to throw.”

Craig was 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs coming off the bench.


Holliday update

The Cardinals will shut Matt Holliday down for the remainder of their current road trip after learning that the outfielder has inflammation of a tendon in his right middle finger.


Holliday returned to St. Louis on Wednesday to have his injured right hand examined, and the club learned the results of the evaluation late Wednesday afternoon. Holliday was removed from Tuesday’s win over the Pirates in the ninth inning after he felt pain in the hand while taking a practice swing.


“He will need four or five days of no gripping and will be re-evaluated early next week,” general manager John Mozeliak said Wednesday afternoon.


“Obviously the fact that he’s having to be shut down is a concern. So in terms of me trying to gauge where it is next week, I don’t think I want to do that. We’re hopeful he can still play again this year, but that will be determined next week.”


Allen Craig started in place of Holliday on Wednesday and is likely to get the bulk of the starts in left field for however long Holliday is out. The Cardinals do not intend to make a roster move for additional outfield depth in Holliday’s absence.



Furcal out with “mild strain” of left knee

The Cardinals’ trip to PNC Park has turned quite painful. Less than a day after Matt Holliday suffered a right hand injury, Rafael Furcal was removed from Wednesday’s game against the Pirates due to a left knee injury.


Furcal slid awkwardly into second base on a stolen base attempt in the fifth inning. The Pirates had a pitchout called on the play, helping catcher Michael McKenry to throw out the speedy Furcal. The Cardinals announced later in the game that Furcal suffered a “mild strain of his left knee” and that removing him from the game was precautionary.


However, the out was the least of the Cards’ worries, as Furcal did not return to the game in the next half-inning.



Holliday has hand injury

Matt Holliday was removed from the Cardinals’ game against the Pirates in the ninth inning on Tuesday night due to a still somewhat undetermined right hand injury.


Holliday was taking practice swings before what would have been his final at-bat when he felt pain in his hand and couldn’t continue swinging. Corey Patterson batted for him.


“I did something to my hand taking a swing,” said Holliday. “It’s a ligament or a tendon problem. I was just swinging a bat and I couldn’t swing it anymore.”


Holliday said he does not have a broken bone, but that beyond that it’s not yet clear what the issue is. He expects to know more on Wednesday morning.



Two late notes: Carpenter and Craig

Carpenter still set for Friday: Many fans asked today about the possibility of moving Carpenter back onto regular rest in the event that the Cardinals won the first two games of the series. TLR was asked about it before the game, but once they actually won, it obviously came up again postgame.

And, well, it’s not going to happen. Brandon Dickson is still the starter for the Thursday afternoon game (which, remember, has that odd 3:10 p.m. CT start time).

Here’s what the manager had to say:

“I mentioned it to my friends that that was going to be brought up. But when I put together the rotation, that Friday game with Cincinnati is huge for us. And he’s got Milwaukee on Wednesday, Carp does. That game tomorrow is really important. But so is the weekend against Cincinnati. So, no, nothing changes.”

Craig says he’s fine: Allen Craig did in fact bump his right knee, the same one he injured in Houston, against the outfield wall on Ryan Braun’s triple in the third inning. And he was, in fact, removed as a precaution when Jon Jay took over for him in center.

However, Craig said he’s got no problem with the knee, and he expects to be perfectly fine and playable on Thursday.

“It’s just a little irritated, but it should be all right,” he said. “I think it will be OK.”

Said TLR: “It was a good time to get him, but I thought he was limping a little bit. I was going to get him anyway with the lead like that, but when he went to bat, it looked to me like his leg gave a little. I asked him, and he said, ‘No, I’m all right.'”

Craig’s explanation was that he was testing his leg out, not that it had been injured.