Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

St. Louis roster boasts new look

Cards have shuffled deck since 2011 Series

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ST. LOUIS -- Rosters turn over so quickly these days, the St. Louis Cardinals used only seven players from their 2011 World Series roster in this year's NL championship series.

The NL champions got contributions from 20 rookies this season, many in starring roles on a team that led the NL with 97 wins and then reached the World Series for the second time in three years.

General manager John Mozeliak sees little commonalities, pointing out the '11 team sneaked into the post-season as the second wild-card and this year's team that until now has had the home-field advantage.

"The good storyline is you've got two teams that have the best records in the game matching up in the World Series," Mozeliak said. "And I think that's nice. A lot of times, that doesn't work out."

Lance Lynn is the only pitcher left from two years ago, joined against the Dodgers by position players Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay. Cleanup man Allen Craig, sidelined by a foot injury since early September, is expected to join them in the Series and would open as the DH.

'That was one of the toughest experiences in my baseball career. You don't forget that'

-- Cards' skipper Mike Matheny on being swept by the Red Sox in 2004

The first time Craig would have to play first base is Game 3 Friday in St. Louis, and everyone's optimistic, especially given those extra rehab days. Craig's .454 average with runners in scoring position led the majors, and aside from the Cardinals' clinching 9-0 rout of the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, the offence has struggled without him.

"He could be the difference," Molina said. "I'm happy to have him back."

When the Cardinals were swept by Boston in the 2004 Series, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal were in middle school.

Wacha, a first-round selection in June 2012 -- the Cardinals' compensation pick for losing Albert Pujols to the Angels in free agency -- scaled the system quickly and has been phenomenal in the post-season at 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA. He's been to Fenway Park once before, as a sophomore at Texas A&M playing for a college all-star team, but didn't play.

"It's unbelievable, just the history," Wacha said. "It's Fenway, it's an amazing ballpark and I just really look forward to getting to play there."

St. Louis worked out Sunday after a day off to savour the NL pennant. They leave for Boston on Tuesday, and just a handful have firsthand experience of the ill-fated 105-win team that got swept by the Red Sox.

"That was one of the toughest experiences in my baseball career," said manager Mike Matheny, who shared catching duties with Molina that year. "You don't forget that."

Matheny said the feeling was similar to the nausea he felt as a rookie manager in the 2012 post-season when the Cardinals took a 3-1 NLCS lead over the Giants and then got walloped three straight times, in his words "getting our lunch handed to us."

"It's a lot like what happened last year as we were standing in the rain watching San Francisco celebrate," Matheny said. "Could we have done anything different? I don't know. But it sure left a sharp bite."

Ace Chris Carpenter was sidelined before that post-season with the first occurrence of a nerve injury that knocked him out all of this season. Carpenter still suits up but in a ceremonial role as a de facto bench coach.

Carpenter is among four players from '11 still with the team but not on the roster. Shortstop Rafael Furcal (elbow) also has been out the entire season, Jaime Garcia is rehabbing from shoulder surgery and Jake Westbrook was rarely used the final month coming off elbow and back woes.

Matheny announced Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner who was injured in 2011, and Wacha as the starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2, but didn't go further.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2013 C10

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