With the left-handed Mark Mulder on the mound for the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday night in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, Houston Astros Manager Phil Garner reinserted center fielder Willy Taveras into the lineup.
Taveras had not been in the starting lineup since Game 2 of the NLCS. Asked the reason for the switch, Garner said, "Felt good."
More likely the change comes because Garner wanted to replace the left-handed Mike Lamb in the lineup. With Lamb out, the Astros shifted left fielder Lance Berkman to first base and moved utility player Chris Burke to left field, allowing Taveras to get back into the lineup.
"I just saw my name in the lineup today, so I knew I had to get ready to play," said Taveras, who admitted it had been difficult to sit on the bench and watch his teammates almost clinch a World Series berth.
"Maybe a little harder," Taveras said. "But it's about winning, and I understand that."
Though he was on the bench, Taveras played a key role in Houston's win in Game 4. In that game, Taveras pinch-ran for Orlando Palmeiro in the seventh inning and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly by Morgan Ensberg. In the eighth inning, Taveras made a running catch on the hill in center field at Minute Maid Park to rob So Taguchi of a possible extra base hit.
On Tuesday night, Taveras was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year.
"I was happy about it," Taveras said. "It's nice that the players think that I had a good year."
Nunez Returns for Cards
St. Louis third baseman Abraham Nunez returned to the lineup after missing Games 4 and 5 with a bruised left quadriceps.
"He had a good workout yesterday and he's ready to go," St. Louis Manager Tony La Russa said.
Nunez was immediately tested when Houston second baseman Craig Biggio led off the game with a bunt down the third-base line. Nunez fielded it flawlessly and threw out Biggio.
Clemens in Waiting
Pitcher Roger Clemens will have at least one more start this season, and possibly his career, in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night in Chicago. He would have started Game 7 of the NLCS had it been necessary.
"Last year we asked him to start on short rest twice during the playoffs," Berkman said. "He pitched in Game 7 [of the NLCS last year] but it was on short rest. For a guy that's 50 years old, he needs his five days. It's totally different this year than it was last year. We feel very good about having him as kind of our safety net or as our opening starter in Game 1."
Asked how often he kidded Clemens, actually 43, about his age, Berkman said: "As much as possible. When he's there we try to give him a hard time. It's back and forth. He's great. He's a great teammate."