10/10/2002 7:50 pm ET
MLBeat: La Russa tweaking lineup
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- It's too early to say that Scott Rolen's absence has cost the Cardinals on the field. After all, Miguel Cairo, Rolen's replacement, had three hits -- including a home run -- on Wednesday in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. But it has affected the St. Louis lineup.
Manager Tony La Russa tweaked his batting order for Thursday's Game 2, moving Cairo up to the second spot and placing usual No. 2 hitter J.D. Drew in the seven hole. The manager said it had nothing to do with getting Cairo's hot bat up higher in the order, and everything to do with splitting up his left-handed hitters. The Cardinals order usually starts with three straight lefties: Fernando Vina, Drew and Jim Edmonds.
"Just going left-right right down there, just alternating them," La Russa said. "Just in case they want to relieve, we don't stack our lefties like we usually do. They bring in a lefty, he's gonna face a righty afterwards. When you have a short bench, you gotta be a little bit careful setting up your lineup."
The Giants have three left-handers in their bullpen, making the need to guard against them all the more pressing. With Rolen unavailable -- but still on the roster -- St. Louis is going with a four-man bench. Outfielders Eli Marrero and Kerry Robinson, utilityman Eduardo Perez and catcher Mike DiFelice are the only available reserves.
Simontacchi at the ready: No one has formally told Jason Simontacchi that he is the main option if Woody Williams falters. Still, the team knows it, and Simontacchi knows it. Williams has been bothered by soreness in the left side/ribcage area, and it is not a sure thing that he will be able to give the Cardinals a full outing on Thursday. He has not pitched since Sept. 20.
"If he's hurt, you can warm up whoever you want to and take all the time you need," La Russa said. "This is a very unfair assignment for Woody, a game of this magnitude. But like I just told Joe (Buck), life and baseball are not fair. And he's gonna go out there with everything he's got, which makes us feel good."
Simontacchi will not warm up alongside Williams, but other than that he has prepared for this game as though he were the starting pitcher.
"I just approach it just as a start," said Simontacchi, who has not pitched in the postseason. "Hopefully Woody will give us five, six, seven strong innings. I have to prepare mentally for me, just so if something does happen, I will come in and be prepared.
"At the same time, I know what my situation is, so hopefully I don't have to get in tonight."
Steady improvement for Rolen: Rolen is making progress in his recovery from a sprained shoulder, but La Russa emphasized that no return to the lineup is imminent for the All-Star third baseman. Rolen has not begun taking batting practice or fielding drills.
"He's improved a little bit every day," La Russa said. "But until he starts doing the baseball stuff on the field, he's not real close."
Still friends: La Russa and Giants manager Dusty Baker have a long-standing friendship, and it was not tarnished by the benches-clearing incident in Wednesday night's game. Things got heated after Kenny Lofton took exception to a pitch from Mike Crudale that he thought was too far inside.
"I think both sides knew it was instigated by a player being foolish," La Russa said, referring to Lofton.
"Nothing's changed. One of the funniest things that was happening was, the umpires kept worrying about it, and we kept telling them, there's nothing happening. We're just really talking this thing over. You have a little fight sometimes, you can't wait to make up."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at Matthew_H_Leach@yahoo.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.