Although Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez sounded like a man saying goodbye to the organization in his postgame comments following his win in Game 3 of the World Series, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein had a different interpretation of Martinez's comments.

"I didn't think Pedro's comments were inappropriate at all," Epstein said Wednesday prior to Game 4, which ended too late for this edition. "He's given all he could for the organization and its fans. He wants to come back [in 2005], and we want him to come back. That said, we're going to build the '05 club the same way we have the '04 and '03 clubs -- and not put one individual ahead of the team."

Martinez becomes a free agent after the season, and most Red Sox insiders expect him to depart the organization.

Following Game 3, he sounded wistful about his time in Boston, speaking of his Red Sox career in the past tense.

"It's been a great ride," Martinez said. "I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did."

Meantime, with their season heading toward a disappointing finish, the St. Louis Cardinals hoped a sense of familiarity could inspire them. Manager Tony La Russa returned second baseman Tony Womack to the top of the order, the spot where he hit for most of the season. Womack, who had been ailing from back spasms, had hit in the seventh spot for the first three games.

"I think that part about being worried about his back, I think he's feeling good enough to where I'm confident he'll play nine," La Russa said.

Womack left Game 1 in the seventh inning after being struck on the collarbone by a hard ground ball from David Ortiz.

La Russa made other changes to the lineup. Reggie Sanders, who had yet to get a hit in nine Series at-bats, was benched in favor of John Mabry. Catcher Mike Matheny was replaced by Yadier Molina. Mabry and Molina have a combined 13 at-bats in this postseason. . . .

Only a few weeks before Terry Francona was named as Grady Little's replacement as Red Sox manager, he was passed over for the same job with the Baltimore Orioles in favor of Lee Mazzilli.

While the Orioles had their seventh straight losing season, Francona has guided the Red Sox to within a win of their first World Series title in 86 years. Not surprisingly, Francona has earned the praise of his bosses.

"He blew me away in the interview," Epstein said. "And I knew he had a lot of great qualities. But the thing I didn't realize at the time was how good a fit he would be in Boston. He takes the big picture. He's supportive of his players.

"A lot of fans cry out for a disciplinarian manager. But in Boston, with so many things capable of derailing you, I think it's better to have a more laid-back approach."

Raising His Glass

Epstein has been making one concession to superstition of late, drinking a glass of Metamucil before each Red Sox postseason game -- a ritual he began prior to Game 4 of the ALCS, which launched the Red Sox to a remarkable comeback win over the New York Yankees.

Epstein said he noticed Francona drinking the stuff -- which "looks like something a 70-year-old grandma would drink," Epstein said -- and decided to give it a try.

"I've had seven glasses of Metamucil now," Epstein said, referring to each of the Red Sox's wins, "and we're undefeated. And I've paid the price."

St. Louis third baseman Scott Rolen throws over pitcher Jason Marquis to get Boston's Orlando Cabrera out at first. Game 4 of the World Series ended too late for this edition. It's no secret that Boston is happy with Manager Terry Francona, left, shown hugging St. Louis's Tony La Russa.