Matheny pieces together overworked bullpen

Matheny pieces together overworked bullpen

ST. LOUIS -- On paper, the Cardinals played with a nine-man bullpen on Monday, the surplus of relievers a result of roster finagling while a rotation opening remains in flux. In reality, however, manager Mike Matheny had an available unit of only four.

An abbreviated start by Tim Cooney last week and the three extra-inning games that followed exhausted a Cardinals 'pen that has been stellar (1.52 ERA) but also overworked due to the number of tight games the team has played over the season's first month.

The shortage of options led Matheny to ride Carlos Martinez into the fourth despite a first-inning unraveling, and then piece together who was left behind him. That meant another extended outing from Carlos Villanueva before appearances from Miguel Socolovich, Matt Belisle and closer du jour Seth Maness. Trevor Rosenthal was unavailable after pitching in three straight games.

Maness earns the save

"We saw everybody that was hands on," Matheny said after his bullpen allowed two runs (one earned) over 5 1/3 innings in the club's 10-9 win over the Cubs. "You saw our pitching staff today. If Seth doesn't make it through [the ninth], I was going to ask for volunteers. We were done. That win, I can't even explain it. That was just really impressive, all things considered, what we needed from certain guys, that was right on time."

Matheny acknowledged afterward that the Cardinals may have to bring in additional relief help on Tuesday given the current state of the bullpen. The club lost one reliever on Tuesday, when it added left-hander Tyler Lyons to the roster to make a spot start. Sam Tuivailala was packing up his bag after Monday's game, and returned to Triple-A with Lyons' arrival.

Villanueva has been a particularly important safety valve over the past week, twice stabilizing games in which the starter couldn't make it through four innings.

He was also around the last time the Cardinals climbed out of a five-run hole -- that being on Aug. 31, 2014, also against the Cubs. Villanueva pitched for Chicago that evening and shouldered the loss.

"I was in here talking to Lyons as the game was going, and I said, 'I've been on the other side in too many games like this. Trust me. Right now, we have the advantage, even though we were down,'" Villanueva said. "In the bullpens I have been in [against the Cards], we felt that. You never feel like the Cardinals were out of it. That's how we felt on the other side."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.