Notes: Suppan to start Game 4
Marquis moves to bullpen, Mulder ready for Game 2
ST. LOUIS -- There will be no intrigue this time around. Fully four days in advance, the Cardinals have divulged their Game 4 starter for the National League Championship Series. It will be right-hander Jeff Suppan, with Jason Marquis moving to the bullpen.
The decision was more a matter of Marquis' fitness for bullpen work, according to manager Tony La Russa, than any strong preference to have Suppan in the starting rotation. Marquis pitched well against Houston this year, going 4-0 with a 3.23 ERA in five starts, while Suppan did not face the Astros all season.
The Cardinals are facing some bullpen issues with Al Reyes out for the season. Reyes was a key member of the St. Louis right-handed relief corps, and the Astros are a heavily right-handed team.
"In my opinion, and I think Dave [Duncan, pitching coach] shares this, if we had Al Reyes healthy, then I think Jason would pitch Game 4 just because of the success he's had against Houston -- especially in that ballpark," La Russa said. "But we don't have him healthy. And [Marquis] is a force that we think will help us out of the 'pen in a lot of games in an area where we may be a little vulnerable."
Suppan pitched the clinching games in both the Division Series and NLCS in 2004. Neither man pitched in the 2005 Division Series against San Diego, and La Russa never revealed who would have started a fourth game had there been one.
Marquis has made 57 relief appearances in his Major League career, but he chafed at bullpen assignments when he was a member of the Atlanta Braves.
"It's not the way you'd like to set it up, where all of a sudden a guy who has pitched well as a starter, you make him a reliever," La Russa said. "But you've got to do what you have to do. We've got a critical miss with Al Reyes, and Jason has some bullpen experience. He's got the kind of electric stuff that can be special out of the 'pen. And he's pitched well against Houston.
"He bounces back. He could appear seven times. It would be great today to have a good winning game to give him a chance to make a relief appearance without it being real tight with no room for a mistake. But we plan to use Jason as a reliever in this series."
King returns: Ray King returned late on Wednesday afternoon after attending his father's funeral in Tennessee, and was considered questionable to pitch in Game 1. King was present for pregame introductions.
"I would have concern," La Russa said when asked about the left-hander's availability. "I think it makes sense to try to avoid using him."
Mulder good to go: Mark Mulder pronounced himself good to go on Wednesday, and he'll get the start in Game 2 on Thursday. Mulder has continued to feel improvement in his left arm after being hit by a line drive in Game 2 of the Division Series last week against the Padres.
"I felt pretty good yesterday, not great," Mulder said. "But today's probably the first day I have absolutely no discomfort, no tightness, no nothing -- besides just the general soreness in the spot that I got hit, but that [isn't a factor] when I throw a baseball."
The Cardinals pondered other options, moving either Morris or Suppan into the second spot and bumping Mulder back to Game 3 in Houston, but preferred to go with the same order they used against San Diego.
"It's a better setup," La Russa said. "We could have made an adjustment and pitched Matt tomorrow, or Supp tomorrow, whichever, but it's a better setup for us."
Watching Walker: Larry Walker's right knee remains sore after the right fielder was hit by a pitch in the clincher at PETCO Park in San Diego. Walker was in the starting lineup on Wednesday, but under a closer watch than some other Cardinals.
"He does have some soreness," La Russa said before the game. "He's playable, but ... late in the game, if it looks like we can get his bat out of there without damaging us, it would probably be smart to play So [Taguchi] out there.
"He is sore and probably will get sorer as he goes along. So we'll pay attention to it."
Lineup shifts: Left-hander Andy Pettitte's presence as the Astros' starting pitcher led to two small tweaks in the St. Louis lineup on Wednesday. After utilizing the same lineup in all three games in the Division Series, the Redbirds flipped their Nos. 4 and 5 hitters, and their Nos. 7 and 8 hitters. Reggie Sanders, a right-handed hitter, moved up to the fourth spot, while lefty-swinging Larry Walker dropped to No. 5. Switch-hitter Abraham Nunez, who is a stronger hitter from the left side, dropped to eighth, while right-hander Yadier Molina moved up from eighth to seventh.
Roster remains the same: The Cardinals made no changes to their roster as compared to the first round of the playoffs. The roster is as follows:
Pitchers: Chris Carpenter, Cal Eldred, Randy Flores, Jason Isringhausen, King, Marquis, Matt Morris, Mulder, Suppan, Julian Tavarez and Brad Thompson.
Catchers: Einar Diaz and Molina.
Infielders: David Eckstein, Mark Grudzielanek, Hector Luna, Nunez and Albert Pujols.
Outfielders: Jim Edmonds, John Gall, John Mabry, John Rodriguez, Sanders, So Taguchi and Walker.
Start times inched back: Major League Baseball announced that the first-pitch times for both Games 1 and 2 have been moved back by nine minutes. Originally slated for 7:19 p.m. CT starts, both games will now be getting under way at 7:28 p.m. CT. TV broadcast times for both games are 7 p.m. CT.
Arizona update: Travis Hanson was the only Cardinals Minor Leaguer to play in the Surprise Scorpions' Arizona Fall League game on Tuesday. Hanson went 0-for-4 in Surprise's 8-2 loss to Grand Canyon.
This date in Cardinals postseason history: On Oct. 12, 1967, the Cardinals closed out their second World Series championship in four years with a 7-2 Game 7 win over the Red Sox. Naturally, Bob Gibson pitched the clincher, going the distance with a three-hit, 10-strikeout performance. Gibson also hit a home run, and Julian Javier added a three-run shot. Thanks to Project Retrosheet for the information.
Coming up: Game 2 is set for Thursday night at Busch Stadium, with a national FOX audience looking on for the 7:28 start. Mulder (3-2, 2.05 ERA lifetime in the postseason) will take the mound against Houston's Roy Oswalt (2-0, 4.05 ERA).
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.