Rotation roundup: As season closes, which starts become highest -

Rotation roundup: As season closes, which starts become highest priority?

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) -- While the Cardinals inch closer to a division title, questions remain as to just who will pitch the final innings of the season. 

Speaking Wednesday before the game, manager Mike Matheny said he is reluctant to contemplate the ifs. 

“Right now we’re going to play today. I want the guys preparing to stay on time for their starts,” he said. “I don’t want them thinking about what the possibility is of X, Y or Z happening.”

Plenty of scenarios remain that could shake up the rotation. Not only a possible division-clinching game, but home field advantage and -failing a divisional title- a one game Wild Card match up could be on the line in the coming days. 

Wainwright is the projected starter for Sunday’s final game of the year, but as the chips fall, several different names could be thrown around for that contest. 

Michael Wacha, fresh off a one-hit performance Tuesday, would have four days rest for that final regular season game. Were the division in the balance, the staff would likely throw Wainwright, but they could save him as a backstop for the possibility of a must-win play-in game. 

Having thrown Monday, he would then have seven days rest for the Wild Card start. Does this give him time to recuperate? Does it throw off his rhythm? Hard to know for sure. 

A more likely outcome would be the Cardinals secure the division but continue to fight for home field advantage.

Saturday would be a normal start day for Wainwright, which means he could throw either day of the weekend, or not at all. If home field advantage were on the line either day, would Wainwright be the man to secure it? If so, he would be out of commission for the first game of the NLDS.

Perhaps Wacha or Kelly, then. A pressure spot for a young pitcher no doubt, but perhaps the safest route if the Cards want to put their ace on the hill to start the series.

It all makes for an equation with enough variables to stress out an algebra teacher.   

Matheny isn’t ready to run the numbers just yet, either. 

“I gotta tell you, I know the scenarios, I know how it all plays out but I’m really- I’m not going there,” he said. “Maybe most people do, they start mapping it all out. I’ve got a very vague picture of what it should look like, but for the most part I don’t want to go there. Because I think when I start going there, I start opening the door for those guys (the players) to go there. When they start going there, bad things are set to happen.”

Matheny did say the club was confident in Wacha’s longevity for postseason play. After watching his innings closely in AAA and in his MLB stints, the staff seems assured he will still have gas in the tank come October. 

“I think he’s still in good shape. We were on that balancing act the whole time of, ‘Is he going to get enough work? And then, ‘Is it too much?’” Matheny said. “It was a push and pull all at the same time which it’s been with all our young guys, but we’re happy where he is right now.”

Three games remain in the regular season. Despite 27 scheduled innings separating September and October, Matheny and his team are staying loose and going about business as usual.

“We’ve got plenty of time to figure it out,” he said. “I want these guys focused on, “I want to make my next start, just in line like we’re doing now until somebody tells me different.’”

JJ Bailey covers the Cardinals for and the BaseballStL app. Follow him on twitter @jungborednbroke and on @baseballstl_app for updates. 

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