CHICAGO -- Fernando Salas has worked the Cardinals out of two critical jams within the past week, both times setting the club up for a win. With the back end of the St. Louis bullpen hampered by workload concerns, Salas could be thrust into critical late-inning situations during this weekend's series in Chicago.
Manager Mike Matheny wouldn't label Mitchell Boggs or Jason Motte unavailable on Friday, but he did admit that he would show substantial hesitation in using either, even in a close game. Motte has pitched in five straight games, with one team off-day the only interruption in that stretch. Boggs pitched in all three games of the Cards' last series after being sidelined just before with lower back tightness.
Both Boggs and Motte insist -- publicly, at least -- that they are feeling nothing more than typical late-season fatigue. But there is concern about pushing them any further right now.
"I'm concerned about [Motte] and Boggs, both," Matheny said of his closer and setup man. "We're going to have to see how they feel today, and [how] the game situation plays out. You just feel your way through."
Even seventh-inning reliever Edward Mujica has shouldered a substantial workload as of late, putting his availability into question, too.
Salas, on the other hand, is relatively fresh, having pitched just four times since Sept. 8. He has been scored upon in just two of his last 20 appearances and has plenty of past experience pitching late in ballgames. Salas saved 24 games in 2011.
The right-hander's last two appearances have been among his biggest of the season. With the Cardinals threatening to fall behind Los Angeles in the National League Wild Card race last Sunday, Salas recorded two outs with the potential winning run standing at third in the 10th. He then preserved a one-run lead on Thursday by striking out two with the bases loaded.
"He's making his pitches. He's hitting his spots," Matheny said of Salas. "There's a little more life on the ball. Why? I don't know. We went through some health things early and tried to fight through it. He just wasn't himself. But he does look more like the Fernando Salas we've seen in the past."