St. Louis Cardinals

August 2, 2014

Lackey moved ahead to Sunday, will avoid facing former teammates

John Lackey will make his St. Louis Cardinals pitching debut at 1:15 p.m. Sunday against Milwaukee.

It was originally anticipated that Lackey, acquired from Boston with minor-league pitcher Corey Littrell on Thursday for right fielder/first baseman Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly, would make his first start at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday against the Red Sox.

But the Cardinals opted not to wait that long, citing that Lackey already will be on an seven days' rest between starts. Lance Lynn, who was scheduled to pitch on regular rest Sunday, instead will take the ball on six days' rest Tuesday against Boston.

"We would be pushing Lackey back pretty far (Tuesday), one day further than Lance," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We've worked Lance pretty good. You look at his pitch count over his last several starts, and I don't think (extra rest) is going to hurt him.

"You also take into consideration, too, (Lackey) pitching against his former team. ... We have an opportunity to get him in there as quick as we can, get him acclimated to this stadium, this staff and this fan base. I think it's a good decision."

Lackey will pitch against Matt Garza, who was moved ahead to Sunday when the Brewers announced Friday that Jimmy Nelson would be scratched from his start Saturday.

The other new Cardinals pitcher, Justin Masterson, will pitch at 6:15 p.m. Saturday against former Cardinal Kyle Lohse. Masterson was acquired from the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday for Class AA Springfield outfielder James Ramsey.

Both Masterson and Lackey are pumped up for their first assignments with the Cardinals.

"I've been pretty fortunate in my career to play for some pretty cool franchises. This is definitely one of them. I'm pretty excited about it," said Lackey, 35, who defeated the Cardinals 6-1 in the clinching Game 6 of the World Series last Oct. 30.

Masterson, 29, already knows he will have to conquer nerves.

"Butterflies are always there," he said. "I think until I'm dead and gone, no matter what I'm doing in front of people, butterflies will be there. I think that always reminds you that you're alive, that you're having fun and that's right where you need to be."

Lackey and Masterson were added to the roster before the game Friday. Outfielder Shane Robinson was recalled from Class AAA Memphis and pitcher Carlos Martinez was optioned to Memphis, where he will join the rotation.

"I think the reason we want him starting in Memphis is he needs to get consistent work," Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak. "That's the easiest way to manage that down there. As far as his usage in the big leagues when he returns, it will probably be by need. But if the rotation is working like we hope, then probably the opportunity would be in the bullpen."

Mozeliak is more at ease with a rotation of Adam Wainwright, Masterson, Lackey, Lynn and Shelby Miller than he was about the one the Cardinals relied on in the postseason last year: Wainwright, Lynn, Kelly and Michael Wacha.

"It's different because it's more proven, a more veteran staff," Mozeliak said. "It's just a different look. Last year, we went in there and obviously put a lot of pressure on some young pitchers to carry us, and they did an excellent job. This year, we were able to acquire a veteran presence."

Masterson can be a free agent at the end of the season. Given his age and a prior track record of success, the Cardinals probably will make every effort to sign him to a multiyear contract.

The Cardinals will exercise a team option on Lackey, who will pitch for $500,000 next season.

The option was intended to be protection for the Red Sox in the event Lackey had to undergo Tommy John surgery during the length of a five-year, $82.5 million contract he signed in December 2009.

Indeed, Lackey missed the entire 2012 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, which kicked in the team option at $500,000 for 2015.

"I feel very confident that, in good faith, this will be honored," Mozeliak said. "I'm not concerned at all."

Lackey said he will pitch in 2015 and will not ask the Cardinals to renegotiate his contract.

"I'm absolutely going to (pitch)," he said. "As long as I stay healthy, I'm going to. Don't plan on (retiring)."

Craig's failure to click will be one of the Cardinals' greatest mysteries of the season. Craig, who was hitting .237 with seven homers and 44 RBIs in 97 games, had batted over .300 for three consecutive seasons and hit .454 with runners in scoring position last season.

"I have nothing but respect for what Allen Craig has done and how he handled everything this year like a consummate pro," Matheny said. "He has handled a lot of different situations that he didn't think he would be in (this season).

"I think we also have to be very respectful for a lot of the success of the teams that Allen Craig has been a part of. We will miss him and hope the best for him. We know that there are some bright days ahead for him."

Mozeliak hopes the same is true for the Cardinals' offense. They began Friday ranked 15th in the National League in runs scored (393) and last in home runs (69).

"The offense, if it continues to look like it does by the season's end, we'll have to use the offseason to try to make adjustments," Mozeliak said. "But we're still confident that this team will score enough runs for us to win baseball games."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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