ST. LOUIS -- As manager Mike Matheny made his congratulatory postgame rounds following the Cardinals' 4-2 win over the Brewers on Wednesday night, he intentionally gravitated toward the relief corps. On a night when Lance Lynn notched a milestone victory and the offense showcased its depth, Matheny had a message for the mostly unsung bunch out of the bullpen.
Their contributions, though appreciated, can't continue at this pace.
For the third time in four games, Matheny called on at least five relievers. This time, he used six, just three days after going through all seven bullpenners in an extra-inning affair. The aggressive deployment of his bullpen has worked -- the Cardinals have won all three games in which five or more relievers were used -- but it has left Matheny concerned about usage just seven games into the season.
"Not happy about that," Matheny said. "That's not how we have drawn it up, to use these guys that much. We can't. It's just too much of a workload."
The only reliever not to make an appearance on Wednesday was Carlos Villanueva, the designated long reliever who threw 45 pitches in an outing on Sunday. Everyone else has appeared in at least four of seven games, with Seth Maness and Jordan Walden having each been in five. Maness' outings have come consecutively, too, which is why Matheny limited the sinkerballer to one batter on Wednesday instead of making a double-switch that would have allowed Maness to return in the seventh.
"Everyone feels good, so whatever situation he needs us in is fine," said Kevin Siegrist, who made his fifth scoreless appearance. "He might as well use us. We're available."
The extensive usage hasn't been entirely due to need either, as Lynn became the first Cardinals starter not to get through the sixth inning this year. But the games have been close -- the seven games have been determined by 14 runs -- and the inclusion of four off-days over the last 10 days has allowed for some built-in rest.
"The transition going from Spring Training -- where you have more of an idea of when you're pitching -- to the season -- where you're trying to be available every day -- is what I think everybody is going through right now," Rosenthal said. "The off-days have been good and bad. They're good for rest, but at the same time, it's good to get in a rhythm."
For some perspective, consider that the Cardinals utilized five or more relievers in a win 10 times all of last season. Five of those instances came in September, when Matheny had an expanded roster. Six times it was necessary because the game extended into extra innings.
"Ideally, that's not what it looks like," Matheny said. "We'd like to maybe use a couple of our guys for multiple innings so we're not getting them all up every single night. But when you're kind of fighting to make sure you can finish it off, you do what you have to do."