HOUSTON -- Marc Rzepczynski is the only left-handed reliever the Cardinals have had on their roster for the entire season. He has, however, hardly had a presence out of the 'pen this month, one in which St. Louis has overworked several other members of the bullpen.
Rzepczynski, traded to the Cardinals in July 2011, was expected to assume a late-inning lefty specialist role this season, his last before becoming arbitration eligible. He served in such a capacity early in the year, but has since lost opportunities.
Part of that is due to how the Cardinals have lined up the back of their bullpen. With Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte emerging as the team's go-to trio for the seventh, eighth and ninth, manager Mike Matheny has hardly called upon Rzepczynski for matchup situations in those frames.
But Rzepczynski hasn't recently been given many chances in the earlier innings either. Rather, those have gone to rookie left-hander Sam Freeman.
"Sam has been throwing the ball well lately," Matheny said. "Marc has had a couple here lately that were tough situations. ... We're just at that spot, we've made no secret about it, we've got to go with the hot hand. People can read into it as much as they want to, but I keep talking to Marc and tell him we're ready to use him when situations are right. He just has to be ready to go when that happens."
Rzepczynski has pitched just three innings in seven September appearances. In two of those games, Rzepczynski was pulled after walking the only batter he faced. Perhaps the biggest indication of Rzepczynski's place on the depth chart came in Chicago last weekend.
Twice, Freeman was called upon to enter one-run games -- once with the team leading, the other with the Cards behind. Rzepczynski didn't make an appearance in the series.