ST. LOUIS -- With the National League Central race concluded, the Cardinals have tweaked their Sunday pitching plans. Joe Kelly, who was scheduled to start, will still pitch, but he will follow starter Jake Westbrook, who will be making his first appearance since Sept. 6.
The outing will get Westbrook some much-needed work. The greater intention, though, is that it can allow for a last bit of recognition.
Though the Cardinals have not talked about how Westbrook fits into their postseason or future plans, it seems as if the right-hander's St. Louis career is coming to a close. He doesn't appear to have a fit on the club's postseason roster, and the Cardinals are not expected to exercise the $9.5 million mutual option Westbrook has for 2014.
Westbrook said the Cardinals have not yet talked to him about his postseason fate.
"I can kind of guess, but that's just from the fact that I haven't pitched much recently," Westbrook said. "It's definitely disappointing not to be a part of. I'm just going to get ready for tomorrow and go from there."
That means Sunday will most likely end Westbrook's 3 1/2-year tenure in a St. Louis uniform.
"He's done a lot for a lot of people around here," manager Mike Matheny said. "If Jake Westbrook wouldn't have been one of our veteran leaders, not just what he was doing on the mound as a real good starter, [but] a guy like [Adam Wainwright], he didn't carry all the burden of taking in these young pitchers as a leader of the staff without another veteran stepping and mirroring that kind of work ethic, that kind of competitive nature. We're real proud with how Jake has been able to help our club in many different ways and decided to get him out there to start."
Westbrook's 2013 season certainly did not close the way he had hoped. He had a 1.62 ERA after his first six starts, but then landed on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. He could not match that strong start upon his return.
A back injury plagued Westbrook in August, and once he came back healthy, he no longer had a role on the team. Westbrook has been available out of the bullpen for the last three weeks but has not been used.
Acquired from the Indians in a 2010 non-waiver Trade Deadline deal, Westbrook is 36-32 with a 4.28 ERA in 93 games (91 starts) with the Cardinals. The club will owe him a $1 million buyout if it does not exercise his option. He will then be a free agent this winter.
"I'm excited to get this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to it," Westbrook said. "Hopefully, I can pitch the way I'm capable of pitching and give us a chance to win. ... I savor it every time I'm on the mound. I enjoy going out there and competing at the highest level. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Matheny emphasized that the decision to pitch Kelly in relief on Sunday is not an indication of what Kelly's role will be in the postseason. Kelly will likely come into Sunday's game after just a few innings because Westbrook is not stretched out to pitch deep into games.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.