La Russa said Rolen's availability as a pinch-hitter was still uncertain before the game, and depended on how much pain his third baseman felt in pregame workouts. Rolen remains day-to-day, barring any further setbacks.
Meanwhile, his absence weakened an already watered-down St. Louis lineup. Scott Spiezio started at third base for the second straight night, forcing La Russa to insert rookie Brendan Ryan at third. La Russa indicated that Ryan's start was a product of his strong hitting against left-handers -- the Cardinals faced one in Oliver Perez on Tuesday -- but that he likely wouldn't have earned the nod had Rolen been healthy.
Molina mending: Catcher Yadier Molina took batting practice for the second straight day Tuesday, and could be ready to join the team in the next few games. Molina had been sidelined with a fractured left wrist since May 30.
"It feels normal," Molina said. "I can do whatever I want. It doesn't bother me. I feel pretty good hitting, so hopefully, I'll come back pretty soon."
La Russa indicated that in a case such as Molina's, where his defense is valued above his hitting, he'd be more inclined to bring his catcher back early, even if his offensive timing hadn't yet found a groove.
Molina had been hitting .273 with one homer in 41 games before the injury.
"I think he's real close," La Russa said. "I think he'll play this week."
Injured shortstop David Eckstein also took batting practice before Tuesday's game, and remains on track to come off the disabled list when he's eligible Friday.
Carpenter coming: Injured ace Chris Carpenter, too, is progressing. Carpenter traveled to Florida on Tuesday, and is slated to start in an intrasquad game Wednesday. La Russa said the team will then announce the details of a Minor League rehab program that could bring him back by mid-July.
Carpenter injured his right elbow on Opening Day against the Mets, and hasn't pitched since.
Rotation shakeup: Until Carpenter can return, the Cardinals will continue to have a bit of a jumble in their rotation. Newly acquired Mike Maroth smoothed some of the wrinkles with his 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball Monday, and the outing was more than enough to convince La Russa to give the lefty a second start Saturday.
The trouble will be patching together a rotation to get to him. Maroth's outing allowed La Russa to skip over Brad Thompson, who had originally been slated to start Monday. Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright both moved up a day to pitch on regular rest, but there's still a hole Friday.
La Russa said he was unsure who would fill that void in the team's series opener at Cincinnati. It could be Thompson, who last pitched in relief Sunday, or it could be Kip Wells, who started that game after being scratched from his previous start.
The only thing that's certain is that La Russa was plenty pleased with Maroth, whose soft-tossing repertoire gives the rotation an entirely different look.
"That's how [Jamie] Moyer's 40 years old and still pitching," La Russa said. "There's a lot of difference there that you have to adjust to."
Bullpen strain: The addition of Troy Percival to the bullpen couldn't have come at a better time. St. Louis hasn't had an off-day since Thursday, and the Cards won't have one again until the All-Star break -- a span of 17 straight games.
Ryan Franklin, in particular, felt the strain, tossing 2 2/3 innings and throwing 30 pitches in the team's 11-inning loss to the Mets on Monday. La Russa said he was available if needed Tuesday -- but only if absolutely needed. And Percival could potentially make that point moot.
"I'd like to get him a first appearance that isn't a one-run lead in the eighth inning," La Russa said. "But we used Franklin quite a bit the other day. I'm not sure how much he's got. We're a little short out there tonight."
Baby Birds: Even if Carpenter isn't ready to pitch soon, rotation help could come sooner than expected. Veteran right-hander Tomo Ohka shined in his second Minor League start Tuesday, after the team signed him to a Minor League contract last week. Ohka went eight innings for Memphis, allowing three runs and striking out two.
For his career, Ohka is 50-63 with a 4.14 ERA. He was released by the Blue Jays this season after posting a 2-5 record with a 5.79 ERA in 10 starts.
Hot-hitting Rick Ankiel again shined for Memphis as well, finishing 2-for-4 in a 4-1 loss to New Orleans.
Coming up: Reyes gets the nod in the third of four games at Shea, with first pitch scheduled for 6:10 p.m. CT. He'll be opposed by lefty Tom Glavine, in search of his 297th career win.