Cards add Pierzynski, flexibility to NLCS bench

Cards add Pierzynski, flexibility to NLCS bench

ST. LOUIS -- Comfortable in trimming their bullpen back to seven, the Cardinals opted to add catcher A.J. Pierzynski onto their 25-man roster for the National League Championship Series (Game 1 tonight at 7 CT on FOX). The organization opened that roster spot by removing lefty Sam Freeman, who walked the only two batters he faced in the NL Division Series against the Dodgers.

By adding Pierzynski as a third catcher, the Cardinals allow themselves the flexibility to use either the left-handed-hitting Pierzynski or the right-handed-hitting Tony Cruz in a pinch-hit spot. With only two catchers on the roster last round, the Cardinals had to hold off on using Cruz in case he was needed for emergency catching duty later in the game. He never was.

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video

Though manager Mike Matheny has shown to be more aggressive in deploying his bullpen in the postseason, he does not expect to be limited with a relief corps of seven. Two of the Cardinals' relievers -- Marco Gonzales and Michael Wacha -- can offer long-relief coverage.

"With the days off, it gives us a lot more freedom," Matheny added. "When you're heading into the regular season, you're not fortunate enough to go a couple games, and a day off, and a few games, and a day off, and a few games, and a day off. But that does give our guys a chance to reload. I believe they're prepared, rested and ready."

The decision to move forward with two left-handed relievers (Randy Choate and Gonzales) also underscores the growing confidence the Cardinals have in Gonzales. While Choate is limited as a lefty specialist, Gonzales offers the Cardinals their only lefty reliever also comfortable facing right-handers.

Gonzales, after pitching his way onto the postseason roster with a strong September finish, made three scoreless NLDS appearances.

"Marco has taken advantage of everything we have given him, and gets a couple of wins," Matheny said. "And in big situations, we're throwing him in there against lefties and tough righties in the middle of their lineup, and he's making great pitches. At this time of the year, we're going with the hot hands, and right now, he's done a terrific job."

In a series where the Giants are expected to send out three right-handed starting pitchers, Pierzynski could provide a valuable off-the-bench bat for St. Louis. He hit .269/.309/.367 against right-handers this season and is familiar with AT&T Park, which was his home park in 2004.

Here is the full roster breakdown:

Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller

Relievers: Trevor Rosenthal, Pat Neshek, Gonzales, Choate, Carlos Martinez, Seth Maness, Wacha

Catchers: Yadier Molina, Tony Cruz, Pierzynski

Infielders: Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, Jhonny Peralta, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, Pete Kozma

Outfielders: Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, Randal Grichuk, Oscar Taveras, Peter Bourjos

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