SAN FRANCISCO -- As traditions go, it's an unusual one but certainly not unwelcome. The St. Louis Cardinals have made a habit of seeing young relief pitchers emerge in the postseason.
Back in 2006, it was a kid-heavy bullpen with rookie Adam Wainwright closing out games. In 2011, Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas stepped forward as rookies to play major roles on another World Series champion. In 2012, the Cardinals have leaned heavily on rookie righties Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly to come within one game of a pennant.
Kelly is more of a long man at this point, coming in to pitch multiple innings when a Cardinals starter has a rough go. Rosenthal, the hardest-throwing reliever on the Cardinals, often pitches in the sixth inning when St. Louis has a lead, providing a bridge between the starters and the last-three-innings combination of Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte.
"The guys have been thrown into big situations and have delivered," said manager Mike Matheny. "So it's been something that's worked in the past and is working right now. But we have some very good instructors in our Minor League side in the development department, and I know that the way they prepare them sets them up for being successful at this level."
Both Kelly and Rosenthal still project as starters in the long run, and Kelly actually made 16 starts for the Cardinals in 2012. But for now, they're enjoying the opportunity to contribute regularly on a team playing for a championship.
"There's nothing better than going out there and being able to compete for your team, especially in the playoffs," Kelly said. "Being one of the younger guys, I went from starting to go into the bullpen this year. I think [with] starting, you only get maybe two chances in a series. But being in the bullpen, you don't know if you're going to pitch. And I like going out there and being in more than one game in trying to help our team win."
Cardinals confident Beltran is fully recovered
SAN FRANCISCO -- As far as the Cardinals are concerned, Carlos Beltran's left knee injury is a non-issue at this point. The switch-hitting outfielder was in the starting lineup once again on Sunday, and manager Mike Matheny made it clear that it really wasn't even much of a question.
Beltran suffered what the club called a left knee strain in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium on Wednesday. He sat out Thursday's Game 4, but was back in the lineup a day later. In Friday's Game 5, Beltran singled and stole a base.
"We were concerned we wouldn't have him [for Game 5], and it took down right at the last minute before we got him in that last game," Matheny said. "But he came out, and the first at-bat [he] gets a base hit and then steals a base, pretty indicative of how he's feeling. [He] seems to be getting better. I salute him and our medical staff for getting really ahead of this, and hopefully we'll be able to keep riding this out and it doesn't flare up again."
Beltran was initially slated to bat second for the Redbirds on Sunday, but he moved into the No. 3 spot when Matt Holliday was scratched due to lower back discomfort.
Berkman not optimistic he can return by Series
SAN FRANCISCO -- Though he is making continued progress in rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee, Lance Berkman is also realistic about how much more ground he has to cover before being deemed healthy enough to contribute on a postseason roster.
And with the World Series only three days away, Berkman is now characterizing his chances of being a roster addition as unlikely.
"It's coming up here pretty quick," Berkman said of the Fall Classic. "I'm not going to rule it out entirely, but I just don't want to put the team in a bad spot. I have to be pretty close to 100 percent or I wouldn't want to take a spot."
Since undergoing his second knee procedure of the season in September, Berkman has held out hope that he could work back into playing shape if the Cardinals made another run to the World Series. He has been taking swings in the indoor cage for several weeks now and has also resumed running, though only in straight lines.
But his ability to run the bases still remains a concern, and Berkman knows the Cardinals cannot afford to carry him on a roster if he is only available to hit.
"I have to be able to score," Berkman said. "With a 25-man roster, you don't want to be in a spot where you are burning players because I can't run. That has to be a factor.
"If I had another couple weeks, it would be easy. But we don't have that."
Berkman said he does expect an eventual full recovery, meaning that his knees shouldn't be the deciding factor as to whether he returns to play in 2013. Berkman has said he will make a decision about his future during the offseason, after he sees how much interest he draws as a free agent.
Matheny said no decision has been made on the availability of Wainwright in a potential Game 7 of the NLCS. Wainwright started Game 4.
Beltran and David Freese entered Game 6 tied with San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval for the Major League lead in hits this postseason, with 13. They also were tied for the Major League lead with five doubles.
Boggs entered Game 6 leading in games pitched this postseason, with eight. Four pitchers, including Mujica, are tied at seven.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.