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Percival back in big leagues

Percival back in big leagues

NEW YORK -- Troy Percival knew something was up when his phone started buzzing.

The Cardinals just wouldn't leave him alone, from Russ Springer to Jim Edmonds to Adam Kennedy to Scott Spiezio. Text after text came rolling onto his screen. They wanted Percival back, and the 38-year-old reliever wasn't about to say, "No."

"They said, 'Does your arm still feel good?'" Percival recalled. "I said, 'Yeah, so they said, 'Come throw for us.' And that got me the itch."

It was an itch he just had to scratch. And now, less than two months later, Percival is back in the big leagues. The Cardinals purchased his contract from Triple-A Memphis before Tuesday night's game against the Mets, adding a reliever who not so long ago was among the most dominant closers in the game.

St. Louis optioned reliever Andy Cavazos to Triple-A to make room for Percival.

"I'm just glad to be back," Percival said. "I didn't know I was coming back. I'm happy to be back. It feels like I never skipped a beat."

And his numbers prove just that. In six appearances with Memphis this month, Percival allowed just one run -- and it came during a season debut in which he walked three in just two-thirds of an inning. Since then, he's looked like the Percival of old, striking out nine in six scoreless innings.

It's unlikely that the Cardinals will throw Percival right back into the fire, with manager Tony La Russa saying he doesn't expect to toss Percival into a one-run game right away. But he didn't rule it out, either, especially not if he needs one or two quick key outs.

"He's going to be a short, spurt type," La Russa said. "We won't stretch it out much."

Percival, for his part, is just fine with that. He's just happy to be back, pitching in whatever role the team carves for him.

"The only limits I have are what Tony puts on me," Percival said. "When he calls my number, I'm going to be out there pitching. I enjoy being in a close game a lot more than otherwise, but at this point right now -- just getting my feet wet out there -- I'll take what I can get."

The Cardinals, too, will take what they can get from a reliever who used to be one of the most feared closers in the league. Percival's career seemingly came to a close when he retired after spending all of 2006 on the disabled list, but he couldn't resist the lure of a comeback.

In 10 prior seasons with the Angels and one with the Tigers, Percival posted a 3.10 ERA with 324 saves. A four-time All-Star, Percival had a career-high 42 saves in 1998.

"Who knows what's going to happen?" Percival said. "It could be another 200 innings; it could be five innings. At this point, I don't know. I just know I feel good, and enjoy going out there."

Antony DiComo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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