QUOTE
Walker logs long hours getting ready to play
By Derrick Goold
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
10/13/2005

With her husband tucked away in a training room and receiving the game-day ritual battery of treatments, Angela Walker passed along well wishes for Game 2 through a clubhouse steward.

Cardinals outfielder Larry Walker had been preparing for the game since around 2 p.m., the team's trainer said. He was not yet done with treatment less than 90 minutes before the first pitch, more than two hours before he made a dashing catch in right field to end Houston's third-inning threat. He would see his wife after the game, came a return message.

"It's the pinnacle," Angela Walker said when asked why her husband was going through such a consuming regimen to play. "It would be the finest end to the finest of careers. It's too bad a body has to fail. His heart is bigger than any of his injuries."

Trying to squeeze one more month out of his All-Star frame, Walker continues to tame a herniated disc in his neck while playing through knee soreness. In Game 1 of the NLCS, he experienced stiffness in his back. He did not take batting practice Thursday before Game 2, instead spending hours before the game getting treatment to contest the general soreness.

All to pursue this, what may be his last shot at a first title.

"I'm fine. I'm fine," Walker said after Game 1, when asked about the knee and back pain. In Wednesday's game, he got his first hit of the playoffs, a broken-bat single. "If I have to keep going up there and getting a broken-bat hit and going 0-for and we keep winning, I'll keep doing that. ... I'll say what I've always said, the important thing is the team winning."

Manager Tony La Russa said he checked with Walker before Thursday's game and the outfielder said he was ready to play. La Russa batted Walker in the cleanup spot, customary against a righthanded starter.

The manager suggested a close watch would be kept on how Walker, who has made two critical defensive plays in right field in the playoffs, was moving and feeling. La Russa was ready for the possibility Walker would get one or two at-bats into the game and be removed to "try to protect him a little bit."

"He's a veteran. He knows if he can play," La Russa said. "He also knows what we're playing for, and he knows there are guys who are ready to go if we need them, as they have been all year. If he's not good to play, he'll let us know."

Walker, 39, has discussed the possibility he'll retire at the end of this season, even saying he would have retired long ago if not for the postseason promise the Cardinals had.
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