CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Notes: Sanders, Walker expect to play

Notes: Sanders, Walker expect to play

HOUSTON -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa hopes he has an easy time making out his lineup card Saturday. But just in case, he'll have two or three different permutations, as he prepares for the possibility that one or both of his corner outfielders may be unavailable.

Left fielder Reggie Sanders felt significant improvement Friday after hitting the ground hard on a play in the outfield Thursday night. Sanders said that he expects to play in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between St. Louis and Houston.

"I feel pretty good," Sanders said. "I expected to be worse. I'm a little sore, but this is crunch time, so I'll definitely be out there."

Sanders is dealing with a litany of aches, including soreness in his lower back and his neck. Right fielder Larry Walker is feeling increasing pain from the herniated disk in his neck, a condition for which he has had four cortisone injections this year.

"He's got a disk problem in his neck and it affects the way he plays," said head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg. "If he's not functional with it -- he can tolerate the pain, but if he becomes not functional, that's a matter to decide whether he's functional enough to play."

In Walker's mind, there's no doubt that he'll be in the lineup.

"I don't think so," said the seven-time Gold Glover. "What did you hear?

"I guess we'll find out tomorrow. I don't deal with the next day. I just deal with the here and now. Tomorrow, I don't know. We'll deal with that when the time comes."

However, La Russa expressed some worry about Walker, who is 1-for-16 in the postseason.

"He's a concern," said the manager. "I know he's hurting. Whatever that turns out to be. But I know he's got some soreness."

Ideally, both veterans will play against Hall of Fame-bound right-hander Roger Clemens. If one sits out, the likely replacement will be So Taguchi, who is 4-for-8 against Clemens. The second replacement, if needed, would be John Mabry (3-for-16 vs. Clemens) or rookie John Rodriguez.

"I just hope there's no outfielders to replace," La Russa said. "And I hope it's not two. We're looking at Larry very closely, too. I think So deserves the first call, if there is one."

Ankiel added: Rick Ankiel took one more step Friday toward completing an incredible comeback. The Cardinals added Ankiel to their 40-man roster after he spent the year in the Minors trying to make the conversion from pitching to the outfield. An impressive August at Double-A Springfield showed the Cardinals what they were hoping to see, and they purchased his contract Friday.

Had Ankiel not been added to the roster by the end of the day Friday, he would have become a Minor League free agent. A problem may come in the spring if he does not make the team. Ankiel is out of options, so much as in 2005, he would have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the Minor Leagues.

"Looking at the last month that he had, he was prolific," said assistant general manager John Mozeliak. "When you look at our depth at outfield, it just seems to make sense. The one thing we're going to have to deal with is obviously the same roster issues we dealt with last year. But we felt it was safe, and high-reward."

Right-hander Evan Rust, acquired in the 2003 trade of Tino Martinez, was released to make room for Ankiel. The Cardinals have a full 40 players on their 40-man roster.

King tries to stay sharp: It's been a trying season for Ray King, and things haven't gotten any easier in the playoffs. King hasn't pitched yet in the playoffs, as he's dealt with the loss of his father to cancer.

King feels like he's in a much better place mentally than when his father was still ill, but now he has a more pragmatic concern: making sure he's physically sharp enough. When the lefty finally is called on, it will likely be in a key situation. There won't be a lot of wiggle room -- it's just not part of the job.

"Unfortunately, I haven't thrown this postseason, and that's kind of weird," King said. "But I just keep going out in the bullpen, throw my bullpens and try to stay sharp so whenever the time comes I'll be ready. Until then, it's a question mark."

Today in Cardinals postseason history: Friday is the 20th anniversary of what Cardinals fans voted the most memorable moment in the history of Busch Stadium. With the NLCS tied at two games apiece, Ozzie Smith hit a game-ending home run off the Dodgers' Tom Niedenfuer for a 3-2 win. It was the first left-handed home run of Smith's career, and Jack Buck commemorated it with the now-famous "Go crazy, folks!" call.

Arizona update: Cory Doyne took the loss with an extremely difficult outing for the Surprise Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League on Thursday. Doyne allowed three runs on two hits and four walks, retiring two batters, in Surprise's 7-5 loss to Mesa. Travis Hanson stayed scorching with a single, a double and a run scored, and Cody Haerther doubled and drove in a run.

Coming up: The NLCS resumes Saturday afternoon from Minute Maid Park. Matt Morris will take the mound against Roger Clemens in a matchup of 100-game winner against 300-game winner. Morris has a 2-5 career postseason record with a 3.97 ERA, as opposed to Clemens' 11-8 and 3.58 marks. The game will be televised nationally on FOX with a broadcast time of 3 p.m. CT and first pitch scheduled for 3:30.

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

{}
{}