Notes: Eldred ponders future

Notes: Eldred ponders future

ST. LOUIS -- Outwardly, Cal Eldred's situation looks a lot like it did a year ago. The veteran reliever is ready for another postseason as a middle-relief cog on one of baseball's best teams. Nothing is guaranteed beyond this year, but Eldred knows he's a good fit in St. Louis, and so do the Cardinals.

Off the field, however, Eldred's life has changed dramatically since last October. Eldred's wife, Christi, lost her mother in February. The couple also had a new baby -- their fifth child -- in the offseason. And in April, Eldred received a major scare when he came down with a viral infection in the lining of his heart. The illness left him all but inactive for several weeks, and kept him on the disabled list for two months.

So it's fair to say this postseason is a little sweeter for Eldred, that he appreciates it a little more than before. Since at one time, he wasn't even sure that he'd be able to pitch in the 2005 playoffs.

"About the first month of [the illness], when you're laying on the couch, you can't get off the couch, and you can't even lay down -- you've got to sit up to breathe -- yeah, I had questions of whether it was going to happen," Eldred said. "And especially because I know the expectations of this organization, this team, the players, and I was a long way from being in a position to help.

"It felt like it was a long way to where we are right now, even though it's gotten here in a hurry. And I'm very thankful to have the opportunity."

At 37, with free agency looming, it's not a certainty that Eldred will be back with the Cardinals next year, or that he'll be pitching again at all. The equation, he admits, has changed.

"A lot has happened," Eldred said. "My wife and I were talking about it last night. When you flip the calendar back 12 months, our lives have really changed a tremendous amount. So some things may not mean as much to us as they did in the past, and some things mean more. ... We're trying to right now to really enjoy where we're at. When you get an opportunity to play professional baseball and you get a chance to be in the playoffs and a part of a team with this type of group of guys and the people that run this team, that's pretty special. That's what we're telling ourselves right now -- just enjoy where you're at, you know? Work at it as hard as you can, enjoy it.

"But there is a time of evaluation coming up, no doubt about it. There's probably going to be some tough decisions to make, but you kind of leave it at the fact that I'm a father of five kids, the oldest one is 10, and I really enjoy being with them. I'm not the guy that would say, 'I'm going to retire so I can spend time with my kids,' because I'd like to think that I do that already. But there may be some other responsibilities that I need to pay closer attention to."

King's father passes: Ray King's father, John, passed away on Thursday. John King had been seriously ill with cancer. Ray King will accompany the Cardinals to San Diego for the weekend and expects to head home to Tennessee for services on Tuesday.

Taxi squad: The Cardinals are keeping five players active for potential use in later rounds of the postseason: catcher Mike Mahoney, infielder Scott Seabol, outfielder Skip Schumaker, right-hander Anthony Reyes and left-hander Tyler Johnson. All but Johnson will travel with the team to San Diego.

The Cards are required to have 14 position players and 11 pitchers for each round, because that was the roster breakdown on Aug. 31. However, they're not bound as to which 14 and 11. So if someone gets hurt, or if matchups dictate that another roster configuration would be more sensible, one of those five could see action if the Cardinals advance.

Start times announced: Major League Baseball has announced the start times for the remainder of the Cardinals-Padres Division Series. Saturday's Game 3 at PETCO Park will get under way on ESPN at 10 p.m. CT. If necessary, a Game 4 in San Diego will start at 3 p.m. on ESPN2, unless all of the other Division Series have come to an end. In that case, the Cards-Padres Game 4 would start at 6:30 p.m. on FOX.

If there is a fifth game, which would be played at Busch Stadium, the start time would depend upon the other NL Division Series. If the Astros-Braves series also were to require a fifth game, then Game 5 of the Cardinals-Padres series would start at 3 p.m. on FOX on Monday. If the Cards and Padres go five, but the Astros and Braves do not, then the fifth game would be a 7 p.m. start Monday on FOX.

Arizona update: Cody Haerther went 0-for-4 with a walk and an RBI for Surprise in an 11-6 Arizona Fall League win over Peoria. Cory Doyne pitched an inning, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk while not striking out a batter. The AFL is off Thursday, with games resuming on Friday.

Today in Cardinals postseason history: On Oct. 6, 1968, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson combined to key a blowout win over the Tigers in Game 4 of the World Series. Gibson pitched his second complete game in five days, striking out 10 and allowing five hits in the 10-1 thrashing. Brock doubled, tripled and homered, driving in four runs and stealing a base, and Gibson added a home run and two RBIs. Thanks to Project Retrosheet for the information.

Coming up: The Cardinals will work out in San Diego on Friday after traveling to the West Coast on Thursday evening. Saturday's game features Matt Morris starting for St. Louis against former Cardinal Woody Williams for the Padres. Morris is 1-5 in 13 career postseason games (nine starts) with a 4.06 ERA. In Division Series play, he's 1-2 with a 2.03 ERA.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.