ST. LOUIS -- Fans may be frustrated with Marc Rzepczynski's usage patterns, but the Cardinals' new lefty has no such complaints. Rzepczynski has gotten used to the kind of work he's getting in St. Louis, alternating between specialist usage and long-relief duties.
"I'm just going out there when the phone rings," Rzepczynski said Wednesday, after pitching two mopup innings the night before. "I'm not frustrated. If I don't pitch for a couple days, I just know that the situation didn't come up. Last night the situation came up that we needed a few innings, and I was the guy that hadn't pitched in a few days, so I was able to."
Rzepczynski even found a bright side: working longer outings has allowed him to refine his changeup, turning it into a true third pitch in which he has real confidence.
As for the reasons for Rzepczynski's unusual work schedule, manager Tony La Russa said it comes down to a couple of factors. One, Rzepczynski has the sort of arsenal that allows him to pitch multiple innings. Two, the manager has significant confidence in Arthur Rhodes, who has emerged as the team's primary lefty specialist.
"He has potential as a starter at some point in his career," La Russa said. "And he can pitch to one or two hitters. That's exactly what he arrived as, with that potential, not to start this year but maybe in his future. Certainly looks like he's got starter material."
La Russa has in the recent past acknowledged an unwillingness to use certain key relievers, such as Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn, as long men. The worry is that by using such a pitcher for two or three innings, the team loses his services for several days. However, Rzepczynski hasn't established himself in that group -- in part because of the presence of Rhodes.
"You just look at what you have and who you're playing," La Russa said. "A lot of clubs don't have left-handers in the lineup. Some clubs do and you need to save him. For right now it's a great fit for our bullpen, because he can give innings or he can pitch one inning or he can pitch to one hitter. Depends on how well-rested he is and who you're playing."
Rzepczynski has made nine appearances, spanning nine innings, in 27 days since he was acquired from Toronto. That doesn't square with the perception at the time of the deal, that he was a critical piece of the trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays.