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Carpenter to stay on schedule the rest of way

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  • Carpenter to stay on schedule the rest of way

    Carpenter will stay on schedule for the playoffs
    By Joe Strauss
    Of the Post-Dispatch

    MIAMI - The Cardinals' runaway lead in the National League Central allows manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan what they describe as both a rare challenge and an opportunity: how to align their starting rotation for the postseason while hop-scotching pitchers through a porous late schedule.

    La Russa said Monday his projected rotation for the remainder of the season is "literally in pencil," with one exception.

    Chris Carpenter will start every fifth day no matter what.

    Duncan says he intends to keep Chris Carpenter on the five-day routine to point him toward a start in the first-round playoff opener October 4 or 5. The Cardinals have four off days over the schedule's final 32 days - three of them coming in the last two weeks. Duncan prefers that Carpenter make his final regular-season start Sept. 28 before an off day. That would not be possible were Carpenter to pitch every fifth game rather than every fifth day.

    "With all the off days, there's really no other way to do it," Duncan said. "The way it's set up, if we play that Tuesday, Chris will pitch with an extra day. If (Game 1) is on Wednesday, he'll have two days."

    Asked how he views the season's last several weeks, Duncan said, "I think it's more of a problem."

    Major League Baseball does not announce the first-round playoff schedule until the teams are set and its television rights-holders determine which matchups are wanted for prime time.

    Carpenter made his 27th start in Monday's series opener against the Florida Marlins. He was 10-0 with a 1.41 ERA in his past 13 outings, including a complete-game three-hitter over the Marlins at Busch Stadium in a 3-1 win Aug. 2.

    Duncan said the rest of the rotation would revolve around Carpenter with starters occasionally working on as many as six days' rest. There will be no need for anyone duplicating Jason Marquis' start last Saturday against the Washington Nationals on three days' rest.

    "We could make some alterations," La Russa said. "I don't think it's smart to get into it. Weather can change it."

    The rotation probably will be notified of projected starts in the next several days. Marquis eventually is expected to become the odd man out as a four-man turn is adopted for the postseason, although Duncan insisted Monday "nothing has been etched in stone."

    Duncan deferred discussing his plans until first speaking with his pitchers, but allowed he would like to see whomever is bumped from the rotation work from the bullpen before the playoffs.

    Duncan remained noncommittal about rookie Anthony Reyes receiving a start after rosters expand Thursday. "I do know I don't want guys coming up here to sit around," he said. The Cardinals probably will promote a select few arms. Reyes, lefthanded reliever Tyler Johnson and righthanded starter Chris Gissell are among the candidates. General manager Walt Jocketty, La Russa and Duncan will discuss the matter before reaching Houston.

    Matt Morris is projected to pitch the final regular-season game at Busch Stadium on Oct. 2 against the Cincinnati Reds. That also would put him in line to start Game 3 of the first-round series. It is likely that Mark Mulder will start Game 2.

    Deadline looms

    The Cardinals will option a relief pitcher in the next two days to set their postseason roster at 11 pitchers and 14 position players. As long as they stick to that configuration, the Cardinals may then use injuries (reliever Mike Lincoln, third baseman Scott Rolen) to later remake their 40-man roster from within.

    Jocketty, meanwhile, continues to scour the market for another bat.

    "I've been talking to people, but I don't know if anything is going to happen. I don't know how to answer that question," Jocketty said. "It depends on what people are going to do. If there is anything we can do to improve our bench, we'll try to do that."

    Mulder's next start is uncertain

    Mulder is tentatively scheduled to start Friday against the Astros but that assignment could be jeopardized if he is unable to complete a bullpen session today.

    Mulder missed his start against the Nationals on Saturday after suffering neck spasms Friday night. Monday he still found it difficult to turn his head to the right. "At this time of the season, it's not an absolute necessity that he throws a side (session), but it would be better if he did," Duncan said. "There's no reason to rush him out there if he's not better."

    Carpenter is set for Saturday's start. La Russa suggested that Mulder could be moved to Sunday with Marquis moving off the series finale to Friday.

    Reporter Joe Strauss
    E-mail: [email protected]
    Phone: 314-340-8371

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