CHICAGO -- While general manager John Mozeliak has not ruled out the possibility of making an impact trade before Tuesday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Cardinals appear positioned for a late-season run even if trade activity is minimal or non-existent over the next five days.
Previous concerns about the rotation's ability to carry this club to the postseason have been placated as July has progressed. The Cardinals entered Friday having received at least six innings from their starter in every game this month. The rotation's ERA in July sat at 2.35 entering this weekend's series in Chicago. On the season, the starters' ERA of 3.49 ranks third in the National League.
There is also the impending return of Jaime Garcia to consider. Knowing that the lefty should be ready to return from the disabled list in mid-August may be cushion enough for the Cardinals to forgo losing prospects for a short-term starting pitching rental.
"Our starters have been great," Mozeliak said last week. "I think clearly it takes a little pressure off, in terms of feeling like we have to do something. If you were to go after a starter, who are you really bouncing out? And how are you improving? That's why I don't think the urgency is quite there for rotational help as maybe it was, say, three or four weeks ago."
With the Cardinals continuing to lead the league in batting average and runs scored, it does not appear that there is much the club could do to upgrade that unit. That's why the club has been prioritizing pitching to this point.
Even the bullpen, which has had its share of struggles this season, seems to have settled recently -- perhaps lessening the urgency to consider it necessary to add a reliever before the end of the month.
The bullpen has posted a July ERA of 2.15, which is much improved compared to its overall 4.16 mark. Mitchell Boggs has taken the reins on the setup role. Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski have seemingly regained traction. And Barret Browning has been a nice recent surprise. The club also just inserted Brian Fuentes into the mix, which gives it a lefty specialist.
There remains, though, room for improvement, which is why nothing can be ruled out with several days remaining before the Trade Deadline. And if the Cardinals are going to be active in the trade market, it is most likely that they will be so in order to land bullpen help.
Any moves Mozeliak may make will be done from St. Louis, as he did not accompany the Cardinals on their road trip.
Freese, Beltran out of Cardinals' lineup Friday
CHICAGO -- Continued right calf soreness kept David Freese out of the Cardinals' lineup on Friday, one day after the third baseman exited a game early with what was described as a calf cramp. Also sitting on Friday was outfielder Carlos Beltran, though that was a manager decision unprompted by any specific injury.
Freese described himself as "sore, but available [to pinch-hit]" shortly before testing his right leg out by stretching and running on the Wrigley Field grass. He anticipates returning to the lineup on Saturday, though Freese also admitted that he didn't expect to have to sit on Friday.
He said he felt the initial tightness during an at-bat of Thursday's 7-4 win over the Dodgers. The grabbing sensation continued when he ran the bases and played the field, which led to manager Mike Matheny's decision to pinch-hit for Freese in the sixth inning.
"We'll have to keep our eye on it," Matheny said. "I think it's turned into a little more than what they thought, as far as soreness."
After keeping Beltran out of Thursday's lineup, Matheny chose to sit the outfielder again on Friday in an effort to "invest in our future." Matheny said that it appeared to him that Beltran was fighting through Wednesday's game, which made it an easy decision to sit Beltran on Thursday. The chance to get Beltran back-to-back days off was also appealing.
"It's not as much his swing as it is his body," Matheny explained. "When his body feels good, everything else seems to fall into place. I don't think anyone has any question about how valuable he is to us. So to sacrifice one to get him back to where he's been for a good part of the season is a good trade."
Beltran, who said on Friday that "nothing is wrong with [his knee]," showed up at Wrigley Field expecting to start.
"I'm good," Beltran said. "He decided to give me two days, that's it. He told me he felt like I needed another day."
Beltran, who has been out of the lineup in four of the 14 games the Cardinals have played since the All-Star break, is 10-for-45 since the start of the second half.
Garcia throwing live BP, nearing rehab stint
CHICAGO -- Jaime Garcia is scheduled to continue his throwing program on Friday with a second session of live batting practice this week to hitters at the organization's complex in Jupiter, Fla. The plan was to have Garcia throw two sets of 20 pitches.
The left-hander, who has been on the disabled list since June 6 with a left shoulder impingement, is nearing clearance for a Minor League rehab assignment, which will put him approximately two to three weeks away from rejoining the Cardinals. The organization has not yet announced when or where Garcia will begin that rehab assignment.
A few other injury updates to pass along from the Minor League side:
Memphis infielder Zack Cox has been placed on the Triple-A disabled list with a strained right hamstring. Cardinals farm director John Vuch said that the injury is nothing serious, but that the organization will keep Cox out for approximately seven to 10 days to keep the strain from worsening.
Cox, the Cardinals' first-round Draft pick in 2010, is batting .254 in 84 games this year.
Right-hander Scott Gorgen has also been placed on the disabled list, though he is not dealing with a specific injury. Gorgen has already thrown 97 1/3 innings this year after missing the 2011 season due to Tommy John surgery. The Cardinals placed Gorgen on the DL as a way to monitor his workload.
In 20 appearances (19 starts) combined between Double-A Springfield and Memphis, Gorgen is 4-7 with a 4.44 ERA.
Right-hander Chuckie Fick, who was designated for assignment by the Cardinals on Wednesday, has been claimed off waivers by the Astros. Fick was taken off the Cardinals' 40-man roster in order to open up space for the addition of lefty reliever Brian Fuentes.
A 15th-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, Fick made his Major League debut with St. Louis earlier this season. He made just two appearances with the club before being sent back down to the Minors.
Major League Baseball overturned a ruling made by the official scorer in last Saturday's Cubs-Cardinals game. Matt Holliday has now been credited with an infield hit in the sixth inning of St. Louis' 12-0 win. The play had initially been ruled an error on Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro.
While Matheny did not label reliever Mitchell Boggs as unavailable out of the bullpen, it's no secret that the Cardinals prefered to stay away from calling on the right-hander on Friday. Boggs has appeared in three straight games.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.