MILWAUKEE -- A day after a report that outfielder Colby Rasmus had asked the Cardinals for a trade and had a chilly relationship with manager Tony La Russa, the skipper insisted there was no "him or me" ultimatum on the table for 2011 and beyond.

"It's one of the most incorrect evaluations or analysis that I can remember ever in my years," La Russa said. "[For someone to say], 'In 2011, either I'm going to be gone or he's going to be gone' ... our relationship is nowhere near that."

La Russa said the surfacing of the trade request, which he said came two months ago, was a distraction and unfair to both Rasmus and his teammates.

"I don't think it's simmering," La Russa said. "I talk to him every day, almost."

La Russa said he understood why players would take exception to such a trade request, as Albert Pujols did when he spoke about Rasmus' reported request.

"For a young kid to come up and say that, that he wants to be somewhere else, I don't know why," Pujols said Sunday. "I guess he said it two months ago. Two months ago we were in first place. Who doesn't want to be on a team that's in first place, battling for a spot in the playoffs? He's young, but he needs to understand, you need to approach that a different way."

Said La Russa, "Everything I've ever said about him, almost without exception, has been positive. If he did something wrong, it had to do with inexperience and normal development. "

The skipper also noted the microscope on a player like Rasmus.

"He is a highlighted player ever since he signed, so he's going to get more attention," La Russa said. "He's now on the radar screen. What would you rather do, be a guy with no talent who's not on the radar screen or you have the talent with a chance to be an impact guy?"

"I believe this is way overblown. He or his agent never requested [a trade] from me," said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak via e-mail on Tuesday.

McClellan keeps delivering for Cards

MILWAUKEE -- Reliever Kyle McClellan certainly hasn't demonstrated any disappointment since losing out to Jamie Garcia for the fifth starter's role out of Spring Training. After registering holds in both victories over the weekend, the setup man lowered his ERA to 2.15 and remained an extremely crucial piece to the Cardinals staff.

"I would never underestimate experience," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Especially when the guy is early 30s and is really starting to roll. Why is he a better player than when he's 22? Experience is a great equalizer. He's just learning ... the delivery, knowing what the keys are, controlling his emotions, concentration, that stuff. It looks like he's approaching his prime."

McClellan has issued just 17 walks this season after issuing twice that many in 2009 with almost an identical volume of innings pitched.

"I think it started in Spring Training," McClellan said. "Last year in Spring Training, I had a lot of walks and it kind of carried over into the season. This year, I have a more aggressive approach and it's a different year."

As for the noticeable drop from last year's 3.38 ERA, he said, "Sometimes you hit it at people, and sometimes you don't."

McClellan remains an intriguing option down the road as a starter, according to La Russa.

"He has the pitches you want," La Russa said. "It really came down to not knowing who our fifth starter was going to be, so he was going to be in a competition. We ended up with Garcia being really good, and if [McClellan] ever became a starter, we'd have a significant hole in our bullpen. Since his rookie year, he's been critical for us."

Would he be a candidate for the rotation next year?

"That's not really up to me," McClellan said. "If they want to revisit, then obviously I'll revisit it. If not, I'll stay in the bullpen."

Cards face Hoffman on brink of history

MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals enter Miller Park with a bit of history hovering in the air, as relief pitcher Trevor Hoffman sits on 599 career saves. The all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball has registered just eight saves this season, with five blown opportunities, and he has given way to rookie John Axford (20 saves) in the full-time closer's role.

The Cardinals had a hand in keeping his shy of the milestone to this point. Nick Stavinoha belted a stunning two-run homer April 9 with two outs against Hoffman, lifting the Cardinals to a 5-4 win at Miller Park. Two nights later, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday hit back-to-back homers in the ninth against the changeup specialist, chewing up a three-run lead and giving the 43-year-old consecutive blown saves.

Milwaukee eventually won the latter game, but the sequence indicated the beginning of Hoffman's descent from the closer's role. Hoffman did, however, earn a save Aug. 18 against the Cardinals and moved within one of the milestone by recording another Aug. 29.

"I'm not in the closer's role right now," Hoffman said last week. "If it happens ... great. If they call on me to pitch, I'll do everything I can. I stay ready no matter what."

Monday marked an interesting opportunity in front of the Milwaukee fans with a day game on Labor Day after Axford worked two full innings for a save Sunday in Philadelphia.

Worth noting

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa reiterated that he would be mindful of getting regular players rest down the stretch. He said catcher Yadier Molina would receive a day off either Tuesday or Wednesday. ... Triple-A Memphis was slated to face the Iowa Cubs at 2:05 p.m. CST, with the winner earning the divisional championship in the International League. With a win, Memphis would solider on through the postseason. With a loss, the Cardinals could see additional reinforcements from the Redbirds roster transported to Milwaukee. ... Chris Carpenter posted his 10th straight win against the Reds on Sunday, becoming the first Cardinals pitcher to win 10 straight starts against the same team since Lon Warneke did so against Philadelphia (1940-42). ... Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports made the observation that Cardinals could become the first team since the current divisional alignment was implemented in 1994 to miss the playoffs despite three starting pitchers with ERAs under 3.00. According to STATS, only nine teams since 1969 have endured that reality, and the last was the 1989 California Angels. St. Louis entered Monday's game in Milwaukee seven games behind first-place Cincinnati in the National League Central.