ST. LOUIS, AUG. 28 -- . Bob Forsch didn't mind that Manager Whitey Herzog placed him on temporary assignment in the bullpen even though he had the best record on the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff. Forsch knows how good Herzog is at getting the most out of a pitcher.
"I'll be like a utility infielder," said Forsch, who at 37 is the senior member of Cardinals. "It doesn't make a bit of difference to me. We just want to win."
And the Cardinals have been doing that all season, thanks in large part to Herzog's skillful use of 16 pitchers, counting utility player Jose Oquendo, who appeared in one not-so-impressive inning in relief. All but three have won at least one game, but none is in the running for the Cy Young Award.
For better or worse, pitching has been a true team effort for the Cardinals, whose team earned run average is uncharacteristically above 4.00 and who could become champions of the National League East without so much as a 15-game winner.
"The pitching hasn't been as good as in World Series years," said Herzog, recalling his 1982 World Series winner and 1985 National League pennant winner. Two years ago, for instance, Herzog had a pair of 20-game winners in John Tudor and Joaquin Andujar.
Going into tonight's game, Forsch was leading the staff with a record of 10-4.
Forsch and almost everyone else on the Cardinals staff have had their ups and downs. The exception has been left-handed reliever Ken Dayley, who has made a speedy comeback from elbow ligament transplant surgery last winter and has the team's best ERA.
Tudor, who suffered a broken leg in April, returned a month ago and has struggled to regain his form. He has a 4-2 record.
Danny Cox, the No. 2 starter, suffered a broken bone in his foot in July and missed about a month. He, too, has been slow to rebound, and has won nine games.
The inexperienced half of the rotation, left-handers Greg Mathews and Joe Magrane, has struggled. Mathews, a second-year player, was demoted to Class AAA Louisville earlier in the season after lapsing into bad habits.
"Sometimes," said the 25-year-old Mathews, "we're on the verge of terrible. Then we pick it up."
Magrane, a rookie who is the most quotable player on the team, became something of a local celebrity after a 5-0 start, earning his own 10-minute weekly show on a St. Louis rock radio station. Herzog had high hopes for Magrane, 23, who leads the team in complete games with three.
But since straining ankle ligaments and spending time on the disabled list, he has gone 1-6. He has showed signs of recovery from the tailspin, though. In his last two appearances, both losses, he gave up nine hits and four runs in 14 innings.
"Overall, holistically, I'm throwing pretty well now," Magrane said. "My last two starts have been pretty solid.
"But pitching good is up for grabs these days. Winning. That's all that counts."
As for Forsch, most of his victories were due to the team's productive offense. The right-hander, who will return to the rotation Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, carried an ERA of over five runs per game for about half of the season.
Even reliever Todd Worrell, who has 26 saves and a 2.78 ERA, has been up and down. Early in the year his ERA was over nine runs, and Herzog on occasion has had to pull his bullpen stopper in the late innings.
Herzog's biggest problem, though, has been middle relief. He has tried several players in that role, with very sporadic success.
The best at that role has been left-hander Rick Horton. Horton also has seven saves and has started six games.
"I expect every spring that regardless of the plans that are made, things are going to happen to change them," Horton said. "But we've had to do a lot of juggling, a lot of juggling."