The Cardinals intend to adjust their starting rotation following the All-Star break as Kyle Lohse takes the ball for next Friday's series opener against the Cincinnati Reds with Jake Westbrook and Kyle McClellan repositioned to receive additional rest.
Barring a reversal by manager Tony La Russa, Lohse, Chris Carpenter and Westbrook will start against the Reds next weekend at Great American Ball Park. Following an off day in New York, McClellan and Jaime Garcia would work the first two games against the Mets.
For McClellan, the adjustment will mean 11 days between starts. McClellan absorbed the loss in Thursday's rain-interrupted start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He would next start July 19 at Citi Field.
The rotation has run hot and cold for much of the last two months. A run of abbreviated starts derailed the club prior to the left wrist fracture that landed first baseman Albert Pujols on the disabled list June 20. However, the rotation, especially Carpenter, responded in Pujols' absence. Carpenter (4-7) entered Saturday's start against the Arizona Diamondbacks having allowed two earned runs in 24 innings covering his last three appearances. Carpenter's run of dominance dropped his overall ERA from 4.47 to 4.00. The rotation compiled a 3.21 ERA in 84 innings during the 13 games that Pujols missed.
"I'd like for them to be more consistent than they are. We seem to go through periods with everybody collectively pitching good, then it's not so good," said pitching coach Dave Duncan. "We just need to be more consistent."
Duncan insists the entire rotation is sound; however, he is also sensitive to McClellan's elevated innings load.
McClellan has thrown 97 2/3 innings in 16 appearances after working 75 2/3, 66 2/3 and 75 1/3 innings in relief the previous three seasons. McClellan is 0-4 since June 15 with 17 earned runs allowed in 30 innings pitched for a 5.10 ERA.
Lohse also has suffered a dip since constructing 1.64 ERA in April and a 2.57 ERA in May, managing two quality starts, a 1-4 record and a 5.90 ERA in his last seven outings.
Lohse took the decision in Friday's 7-6 loss after allowing a three-run fourth inning and a sixth-inning grand slam.
"He pitched the first three innings (Friday) aggressively then as soon as things started happening he became too fine," Duncan noted. "He's got to stay aggressive and trust his stuff rather than try to make perfect pitches and get behind in the count and give the hitter a predictable pitch."
Westbrook will start on 10 days' rest when he pitches the July 17 series finale in Cincinnati. He has allowed eight hits or more in six of his last seven starts, the exception coming during seven shutout innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 1. The Reds got to Westbrook for five runs in his first 12 pitches Wednesday.
For several days shortstop Ryan Theriot has brandished a captain's 'C' on the right chest of his batting practice jersey. The letter, a byproduct of a recent clubhouse prank hatched by left fielder Matt Holliday, brought Theriot more than a little grief.
"Where I go, they follow," Theriot quipped Saturday afternoon.
Holliday had orchestrated the patch from last month's Joplin benefit to be ironed on all of Theriot's shirts. He arrived to the park Thursday to find a 'C' ironed to his batting practice jersey.
La Russa has never sanctioned a player captain during his term as a major-league manager. He accorded Oakland A's third baseman Carney Lansford and former Cardinals shortstop Edgar Renteria unofficial recognition.
La Russa still scolded himself Saturday for an oversight that made catcher Yadier Molina ineligible to appear during Friday night's 7-6 loss because of an incorrect lineup card submitted to the umpires beforehand.
La Russa actually started Gerald Laird; but because Molina was listed as the starting catcher on the lineup card, Laird was deemed a substitution, meaning Molina was out of the game.
Cardinals reliever Eduardo Sanchez endured a rough inning, a blown save and a loss in a Saturday rehab appearance for Class AA Springfield. Sanchez allowed two runs, one earned, during a 19-pitch outing that included a leadoff walk, a hit batter, a throwing error on a pickoff attempt and an RBI infield hit. The unearned run resulted from his own throwing error. Sanchez' outing came two days after he threw 20 pitches in his first rehab appearance. The club originally planned to activate Sanchez after the All-Star break. He was placed on the disabled list June 13 with right shoulder inflammation. ...
Third baseman David Freese's batting average climbed after Friday's game. A scorer's call that had credited Diamondbacks third baseman Sean Burroughs with an error was changed to a hit for Freese, leaving him one for five in Friday's 7-6 loss ... Albert Pujols' home run Saturday night was the 30th of his career that either tied the game or gave his team the lead from the eighth inning on. The blast also was No. 426 of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Billy Williams for 42nd place on the all-time list and putting him one behind Mike Piazza for 41st. ... Catcher Yadier Molina's sixth-inning double made him second among major league catchers in the category