Initially, the Cards' plan was to have John Smoltz and Kyle Lohse, the two primary candidates for the spot, available in relief in Games 1 and 2, then move one of them back to starting in Sunday's Game 4. Instead, La Russa said on Friday that both right-handers will be listed as available relievers for Saturday's Game 3. Smoltz, Lohse and Chris Carpenter are all in the mix to start on Sunday, assuming the Cardinals can force a fourth game by winning on Saturday.
Carpenter would be starting on three days' rest, following a grueling 105-pitch, five-inning slog in Game 1. However, starting Carpenter on Sunday would allow the Cardinals to pitch Adam Wainwright on regular rest in a potential Game 5 in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
"What we're doing is we're spending a lot of time thinking about what we do to get to Game 4," La Russa said. "That's definitely the priority. But whether it's the right thing, it's more fun anyway, we are thinking about what if 4? I think that's the way we should think. And Chris is one of the guys that's a possibility."
Carpenter will not be listed as a possible reliever for the third game, no matter what. But he, Wainwright and starter Joel Pineiro are the only ones who won't be available to pitch. Because Game 3 is an elimination game, Lohse and Smoltz will both be in the bullpen on Saturday.
"When I talk about options, I think 99 percent of our attention is on trying to get to Sunday," La Russa said. "So everything is about Saturday. But I did mention that Chris is an option [for Game 4]. Chris is not going to be in the bullpen. But other than that, it's the other 99 percent. We've got to win tomorrow. We're going to try to win tomorrow. And then we'll see what we shake up with, as far as alternatives."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.