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La Russa cloak and dagger?

Since we're all so interested in Tony La Russa conspiracy theories these days following the loss Saturday night to the Mets, I've got something for consideration.

Cue the dramatic music:

Did Tony La Russa really skip rookie Jaime Garcia in the rotation two weekends ago to save Garcia from having to pitch in front of a national television audience... Or did he do it to do a favor for ace Chris Carpenter?

The story about keeping Garcia away from the pressure of pitching on national TV really didn't wash with me from the start... because switching Garcia from his scheduled Sunday night start to Carpenter's Saturday slot didn't accomplish its advertised purpose. Instead of being on cable Sunday night, he was front and center for Fox's Saturday game of the week. I'd think more people watched the game broadcast over the airwaves Saturday afternoon than the one on pay TV Sunday night.

I wonder if the real reason for the switch was that by skipping Carpenter La Russa set the team ace up for an easier road as he competes for another Cy Young Award. Garcia had to pitch  Saturday night against Johan Santana, New York's high dollar free agent import. Carpenter matched up against John Maine and his 13.50 ERA coming into the Sunday night game.

Being set up to face the opposition's fifth starter should set Carpenter up for more easy wins and, if the Cardinals can get early leads, could allow him to pitch fewer innings and still be eligible for the win.

If that's the case, it would seem like the team put a lot of pressure on Garcia by forcing him to perform in competition with the best pitchers in baseball. If Carpenter wins his games and then an overmatched Garcia loses all of his, you gain nothing in the standings.

La Russa's a player's manager. He's loyal to a fault to his veterans... Think about how he wouldn't pull the piug on Jason Isringhausen as the Cardinals' closer even though everyone in the park could see the once dominant pitcher was toast.

But if the skipper really wanted to help Carpenter, shouldn't he have pushed the 2005 Cy Young Award winner but frequent disabled list visitor BACK in the rotation to give him additional rest instead of pushing him forward to keep him on his usual schedule when you factor in early season days off?

And how fair is it to force fellow Cy Young Award competitor Adam Wainwright to continue to face top of the rotation starters while Carpenter gets the easy assignments? Not very.

The truth of the matter is that La Russa's rotation shuffle probably won't benefit Carpenter very much. And maybe it was a shrewd move for the good of the team after all. It's not the Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt and Jake Peavy type pitchers that give them the most trouble. It's the guys who were just called up from Class AA to make an emergency start or the Bud Norris types that give them fits.

The bottom line is that I don’t care in what order the Cardinals pitchers take the mound... Just as long as they keep pitching like they’re pitching.