ST. LOUIS -- It's a good thing the Cardinals entered Thursday afternoon's game with a starter ready to come out of the bullpen. Because they certainly didn't have many relievers.
At least two, and possibly as many as four, of the Redbirds' relief pitchers were considered unavailable for the game against the Rockies after extensive work in the season's first two games. Russ Springer and Kyle McClellan were considered almost completely off limits, while Jason Isringhausen and Ryan Franklin fell under the category of available if really needed.
McClellan, a rookie, pitched an inning in the season opener on Tuesday and then two on Wednesday. Springer followed an inning on Tuesday with a 32-pitch ninth inning on Wednesday. Isringhausen did not pitch Wednesday, but warmed up repeatedly. Franklin pitched in each of the first two games, though he did not have an excessive workload in either.
"This would be a great win to get," manager Tony La Russa said on Thursday morning. "If you have a chance, I mean a real good chance to win, then the availability of Franklin and Izzy you've got to consider. But the problem with a game like this is that if it starts to get away, you've got to let [Brad] Thompson take a beating, and then you've got [Anthony] Reyes. And you've got to pitch nine innings. McClellan will not pitch.
Reyes, converted from the starting rotation, Ron Villone and Randy Flores were the three pitchers listed with full availability.
"Reyes is big," La Russa said. "Reyes, Villone, and Flores could pitch. And then pitch Izzy to win the game. If Brad [Thompson] doesn't have a good game, this could get away from us. Springer definitely is going to be out."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.