CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals are looking forward to getting back to St. Louis after Spring Training and a seven-game road trip to begin the season.

"Feels like a two-month road trip," said manager Mike Matheny. "We've been [living] out of a suitcase since February."

The pomp and circumstance of Opening Day at Busch Stadium will be elevated this season as Cardinals fans welcome back their team after a strong start to the season, and for a much-anticipated World Series championship celebration.

"I'm looking forward to getting that ring, for sure," Lance Berkman said. "There's a little extra swagger to being [defending] world champs. That experience gives you confidence."

The Cardinals will hold an optional workout from 1 to 3:30 p.m. CT on Thursday. "For the guys who need it," Matheny said.

For the veteran players, it will be a chance to get moved in and get reacquainted to their surroundings at Busch Stadium.

The Cards anticipate an emotional scene on Opening Day, but say they'll remain focused on the task at hand.

"All of that is for the fans, mostly," Berkman said. "This is 'Groundhog Day' for a baseball player. It's another game, another day. Because of the brevity of the offseason, it feels like we were just there."

Berkman slowed by calf, sits out series finale

CINCINNATI -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Lance Berkman probably would've had a day off on Wednesday regardless. But the tightness in the first baseman's left calf made it an easy call.

"I told him on the elevator last night that I didn't care if he woke up feeling like he had someone else's calf, he wasn't playing today," Matheny said.

Berkman left Tuesday night's game in the eighth inning after he felt some tightness in his calf after legging out a triple in the sixth inning. He led off the eighth with a single, then removed himself for a pinch-runner when it became apparent he wasn't going to be able to run the bases effectively.

"That was an important run," Berkman said. "Everyone on the team was faster than me at that point."

On Wednesday morning, Berkman arrived in the visitors' clubhouse with a slight limp. He described the condition of his calf as "Not good," and said he could pinch-hit on Wednesday if necessary, but not run the bases.

"It's a little sore this morning," Berkman said. "It's probably not playable. We'll just have to wait to see how it responds. [Thursday] is an off-day, so that's good."

Berkman, who's batting .375 with six walks, will receive treatment to determine his availability for Friday's home opener at Busch Stadium, and beyond.

"They'll shock it, ice it, do all sorts of hocus pocus," he said.

Matheny shuffles Cards' lineup for Reds finale

CINCINNATI -- Removing David Freese's red-hot bat from the starting lineup on Wednesday wasn't an easy decision, but Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had the long-term stability of the ballclub in mind.

"We're all cognizant of the point that we have a long way to go," Matheny said. "Giving them a day [off] like this has a lot of positives. We're not going to abuse them or ride them when they're doing well."

Freese is batting .444 with three home runs and a Major-League leading 10 hits and 12 RBIs through six games. David Descalso started at third and batted sixth in place of Freese.

"The day off is more of a mental break than anything else," Matheny said. "Gives them a chance to shut their brain down and shut the intensity down for a day."

Other lineup changes on Wednesday included Tyler Greene playing second, Erik Komatsu in right, and Matt Carpenter starting at first base and batting cleanup.

"I don't have a lot of hesitation putting him where we need him," Matheny said of Carpenter. "He gives us good at-bats."

Worth noting

Cardinals starting pitchers are in healthy competition with each other -- each trying to better their teammate's last start. Manager Mike Matheny welcomes the personal battles, and he couldn't be more pleased with the results.

St. Louis starters have posted a Major League-leading five wins and five quality starts in six games, with a staff ERA of 1.86 -- second in the National League behind Pittsburgh's 1.80.