ST. LOUIS, OCT. 2 -- Whitey Herzog put him in a game -- once. He won't see a dime of postseason money or a minute of postseason play. And he's not in the Cardinals' plans for next season.

Okay, let's ask him. Why is Doug DeCinces in St. Louis for one week?

"I think it's probably one of the more unusual situations from a personal standpoint," he said. "Intriguing. I went back and forth a lot before I came here."

DeCinces, who was released Sept. 25 by the California Angels, signed an unusual personal services contract -- one that took the third baseman/first baseman and his 237 career homers to the Cardinals for exactly seven games.

Most late-season acquisitions are made with postseason play in mind. But DeCinces is ineligible because he signed after the Sept. 1 postseason roster was announced.

"I don't look at it as benefitting me in any way," he said during the Cardinals' crucial four-game series with Montreal earlier this week. "I know in my career how tough the last week of a pennant race can be."

DeCinces was brought aboard by St. Louis General Manager Dal Maxvill and Herzog with just that in mind. In more than 13 seasons, DeCinces' clubs have been totally out of races only three times in the final week of play.

While playing in parts of nine seasons with Baltimore, he had been in numerous pennant races and the 1979 AL Championship Series and World Series. After being traded to the Angels, he made the ALCS in 1982 and last season.

"Whitey and Dal showed the confidence that I can be thrown in a situation like this and produce," DeCinces said.

"I was around. They asked. I knew Jack {Clark} was hurt. That's why I'm here. I'm just available."

With Clark out for the final regular season series against the Expos and New York Mets, Maxvill was looking for a right-handed bat to use against New York left-handers Bob Ojeda and John Candelaria.

Herzog would have started DeCinces at first base in place of left-hander Dan Driessen against Ojeda today if the Cardinals hadn't already clinched the NL East title.

He was available in the first place because the Angels had a fit of fiscal austerity. If California had waited until after the season to release DeCinces, 37, they would have had to pay his salary for next season.

DeCinces, hitting .234 with 16 homers and 63 RBI at the time, called it a classless move. As for his memories of California, he corrected someone who asked if he was happy leaving a team that was going nowhere.

"They're going somewhere," he said. "They're going down."

Montreal's Dennis Martinez, a teammate of DeCinces' at Baltimore for many years, said he was surprised when he heard DeCinces had signed for such a short time.

"I'm glad it worked out for him," Martinez said, "because if another team needs a third baseman, I think he can still play. He looks like he's pretty happy to be there."

Although he received offers from other clubs, DeCinces said, none of them were contenders and all of them were talking about next season. And if someone had just asked him to play out the string, he wouldn't have.

"He got a lot of calls," Martinez said, "but the first phone call was from the St. Louis Cardinals, and he appreciated that. I think he made the right choice, because you never know what will happen to Clark."

After this half-a-fortnight tryst, DeCinces will go back home to California, reflect and keep himself busy in preparing for his 15th season.

"At this time, I have full intention of playing, but I don't know where or how," he said. So he'll listen to what any club has to say, maintaining his policy of "rigid flexibility."

Anyway, there's little he can show anyone in less than a week. "I didn't come here for that," he said. "And anyone who thinks I did {doesn't make} good baseball sense. I've been playing for 13 1/2 years. My record can speak for itself."

Before the Cardinals clinched the NL East title, he was asked how he would react to his celebrating teammates.

"I can't enjoy what these guys are going to enjoy by any means whatsoever. But by the same token, I'll enjoy it."

Thursday, while anarchy reigned in the Cardinals' dressing room, DeCinces walked about calmly, offering a handshake here, a pat on the back there.

He said his main concern was congratulating his new and soon to be former teammates.

"Last week I wasn't going to be here for this party," he said. "I'm not as involved as I have been in the past . . . but I enjoy watching these guys enjoy, because I know what they went through."