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Cardinals’ bullpen moves also deserve credit for success

Reporting from St. Louis — Texas General Manager Jon Daniels has been lauded for a series of late-season trades that brought relievers Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez to the Rangers, transforming a shallow bullpen into one of baseball’s deepest and fueling the team’s run to its second consecutive World Series.

Less publicized — but no less important — were the moves St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak made in July and August, when he acquired pitchers Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczynski from Toronto and signed former Rangers reliever Arthur Rhodes as a free agent.

“Without this trade, we had a legitimate risk to finish under .500,” Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa said.

Lefty specialists Rzepczynski and Rhodes combined for 34 strikeouts and 12 holds in 311/3 innings and Dotel has given up only 16 hits with a team-low WHIP of 0.85 in 29 games. That has allowed La Russa to shuffle roles in his bullpen, turning a weakness into a weapon. Since Rhodes, 41, joined the team, the Cardinals are 33-20.

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“I give our front office and ownership a lot of credit, because they had to make the decision to pull the trigger and believe we had a shot,” La Russa said. “Early in the year our bullpen struggled. But now they’re one of the major reasons we’re here.”

Getting squirrelly

St. Louis has gone nuts over the Rally Squirrel.

The squirrel — or squirrels; there were four of them — first appeared during Game 3 of the National League division series, which the Cardinals lost to fall to within a game of elimination.

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A night later, a squirrel reappeared, darting from the St. Louis dugout at Busch Stadium and racing across home plate just as Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt was delivering a pitch to Skip Schumaker.

The Cardinals, who entered the playoffs as a wild-card team, never trailed again in the division series, eliminating the Phillies before beating Milwaukee in the NL Championship Series.

“It’s a fun thing. And the fans get to have fun with it. So we’ll ride it as long as it’s hot,” Schumaker said of the squirrel, named Buschy, whose likeness appears on T-shirts and placards all over St. Louis.

A rodent return in the World Series is doubtful, however. The Cardinals say they captured the squirrels and relocated them to the Wildlife Resource Center in suburban Ballwin, although a club spokesperson warned there could be more hiding in the ballpark.

Weather or not

It rained in St. Louis for much of the last two days, but the skies cleared in time for the Cardinals and Rangers to work out on the field Tuesday at Busch Stadium.

It was chilly, with the afternoon temperature hovering at about 50 degrees. The National Weather Service is predicting more rain Wednesday morning, giving way to mostly cloudy skies and a windchill near freezing for the first pitch.

That won’t be a problem for C.J. Wilson, who will start Game 1 for the Rangers. Wilson is a proponent of cryotherapy, which uses extreme cold to promote recovery, pain relief and decrease inflammation.

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“Basically, you stand in this freezing can and cold air circulates around you,” Wilson said. “I did it a couple of days ago. Went down to minus 295 or something. So 35 degrees should be no big deal, right?”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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