HOUSTON -- The Cardinals made two lineup changes on Sunday for Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, with manager Tony La Russa putting John Mabry in left field and Yadier Molina at catcher.
Mabry, playing in place of Reggie Sanders, will bat seventh, while Molina will hit in the No. 8 slot, where usual backstop Mike Matheny normally does.
Sanders is 1-for-11 in the series, and La Russa wanted to get an additional left-handed batter in the lineup against tough Astros right-hander Roy Oswalt. There had been a great deal of speculation that Roger Cedeno would start over Sanders on Saturday, due to his strong career record against Roger Clemens, but Sanders got the call and went 0-for-3 with a walk.
La Russa made a point of noting that Sanders is not being demoted. The veteran is simply getting a day off.
"I hope John gets four hits today, but Reggie's playing tomorrow," La Russa said. "It's what we've done with Reggie. We've tried to keep Reggie fresh as much as possible."
If the Cardinals had won Saturday, which would have given them a chance to clinch the series on Sunday, Mike Matheny would have started at catcher. However, with a game now sure to be played on Monday, La Russa wanted to give his regular catcher a break.
"We put so much on our catchers, I think it's something we've done quite a bit during the year just to keep Mike fresh," La Russa said. "He'll be back out there tomorrow.
"We really like getting Molina involved in the series. He and Jason [Marquis, Game 4 starter] have had some good games together."
Kline clarification: Maybe Steve Kline isn't bothered by gout after all. Kline spoke with reporters on Saturday night, shedding a little more light on the condition which has bothered him recently -- the aggravation of soreness in his left index finger. Kline had been pitching with a 70 percent tear of the flexor tendon in that finger, but the pain grew worse on Thursday night.
Steve Kline / P
Weight: 215 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: L
Initially the team said that a case of gout had made Kline's finger worse, but Kline said he wasn't so sure of that. He confirmed, however, that there is no additional damage to the tendon beyond what he already sustained.
"I've had gout before," Kline said. "I know what it feels like, what gout feels like. Compared to what this feels like, it's totally different. Usually if you have the gout, it comes and goes, comes at night, swells up, throbs like crazy.
"They thought maybe it could be [gout], and gave me some medicine, but also I'm back to my anti-inflammatories. But I don't want to mix too many drugs together."
Kline's availability remains in question, but La Russa said before the game on Sunday that he hoped to be able to use the usually durable left-hander on Sunday.
"He told the trainers he could pitch," La Russa said.
If the Cardinals should advance to the World Series, they would have to make a decision whether to use a roster spot for Kline, given the possibility he might be unavailable again.
"We'll see," La Russa said. "I hope to have that decision."
On the skipper: In his pregame news conference on Sunday, Game 5 scheduled starter Woody Williams was asked about his relationship with La Russa, and how his current skipper compares to previous managers for whom he's played. That list includes some well-known names, like Bruce Bochy, Cito Gaston and Jim Fregosi. Williams said that La Russa is one of a kind.
"Well, Cito Gaston was intense, but he never said anything," Williams cracked. "I was just afraid of him. He knew the game very well. He was very well respected. I think it's two different kinds of intensity there.
"With Tony, a lot of times he's just like one of the players. He gets excited, he'll jump up. It's funny, like in Chicago, he jumps up, gets excited in the dugout and ends up bumping his head on top since it's so short. He definitely brings fire to the club."
Williams has played for La Russa since midway through the 2001 season, when he was traded from San Diego.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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