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Smoltz will start

Former Cy Young winner John Smoltz will make his pitching debut with the Cardinals Sunday, according to manager Tony La Russa. And he will do it as the Redbirds' fifth starter.

La Russa said on the Fox Sports Midwest pregame show that he expects Smoltz to get at least two starts and then he'll decide whether to keep Smoltz in the rotation or put him in the pen as a righty set up man.

blog post photo

Cardinals pitcher John Smoltz during his last days as a starter for the Red Sox. AP photo.

The Cardinals need help in the relief corps. But let's not forget that their starters have logged a lot of innings. If they could find some stability in the fourth and fifth slots, they could use off days to give the top of the rotation -- especially Chris Carpenter -- some extra rest. Carp missed nearly all of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with injuries. This year he is logging an awful lot of innings and it would be a shame if he broke down like he did in 2004.

Smoltz will wear number 30 in St. Louis because Carpenter wears 29, which the former Braves and Red Sox starter has worn his whole career. But how cool is Carpenter? He offered to give up the number 29 jersey he has worn for St. Louis since 2002. We're not talking about some rookie here. We're talking about a fellow Cy Young Award winner who won a World Series ring wearing the Cardinals uniform.

It's a gesture reminiscent of former Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny's giving up his number 22 to Will Clark when he joined the club in place of an injured Mark McGwire. I'm glad Carpenter made it. And I am also glad that Smoltz turned it down.

In addition to the $100,000 or so the Cardinals will pay Smoltz for the rest of the season, the Cardinals also offered to kick in unspecified incentive clauses that would pay one of baseball's all-time greatest post season pitchers bonuses for his work in the playoffs.