CLOSE

Now Commenting On:

Notes: Roster gets a shift for NLCS

Notes: Roster gets a shift for NLCS

ST. LOUIS -- Following the Houston Astros short workout at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, manager Phil Garner added right-hander Ezequiel Astacio to the playoff roster and removed outfielder Luke Scott.

Because the National League Championship Series is a best-of-seven format, Garner figured he would need more pitching, as opposed to the Division Series, which lasted only four games. For the first round, the Astros carried 10 pitchers.

The length of the NLCS was the main reason for the roster shuffle. According to Garner, it had little to do with the Astros' 18-inning contest with the Braves on Sunday.

More

"All of our pitchers are OK," Garner said. "It's more the seven-game series, if we have a rainout and have to play five games in a row, it would put a strain on it.

"I was thinking I could get through with 10 [pitchers] in the first series, but I thought I might have to make this move. We thought this was something we would have to do."

If Garner needs a long reliever in the NLCS, he'll turn to Astacio, who made several appearances as both a starter and reliever during the regular season.

"It will depend on where we are, how healthy the bullpen is, how much they've been used, where we are in game situations," Garner said. "I will use him both long and short."

Before the Division Series began, Garner and pitching coach Jim Hickey told Astacio there was a chance he would make the roster for the next round, so the news didn't come as a huge surprise to the right-hander.

"They had me pitch to some of the hitters [on the off-day between Games 2 and 3], so I could be ready for the series," Astacio said. "I feel good. I feel ready to pitch."

Scott, who had two at-bats in the Division Series and missed a game-winning homer on Sunday by about three inches to the left, said he was disappointed but understood the logic in the team's decision.

"Pitching's going to be big in this series," Scott said. "The only thing I can do is be ready for anything they need me to do. You can't focus on things you don't have control over. I'll stay prepared -- just in case anything happens.

"Regardless of being taken off the roster, this is a dream come true -- playing in October and being part of a great team."

Recovered: How exhausting was Sunday's 18-inning marathon?

"My toes were hurting," Craig Biggio said. "My toenails were screaming."

Four Astros played all 18 innings of the 7-6 win over the Braves: Biggio, Brad Ausmus, Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg. And those who didn't play the entire game had sympathy pains for those who did.

"I know I only played seven innings of it, because I got double-switched for, and I was exhausted at the end of the game," Adam Everett said. "Emotionally, it took its toll."

Most agreed that the physical toll was nothing compared to how mentally draining Sunday's six-hour contest was.

"We were down early and playing pretty much the whole game down," Lane said. "Then we have that huge comeback, and everyone gets rejuvenated. To play every inning knowing one run either way could mean the game, you have no time to relax. It's just tense for another nine innings."

The Astros were off on Monday, the main order of business was sleep. With no workout scheduled, most of the team stayed home and simply rested.

Biggio also had to take care of a few things he didn't get to during the champagne celebration after Sunday's win.

"I didn't ice after the game, so I filled my bathtub up with ice and sat in there," he said. "I didn't do it after we won, and after getting out of bed the next morning, I said, 'I have to do it.' "

It was a small price to pay for the reward.

"We won the game and that's all that matters," Biggio said. "It made all the pain go away. I'm just glad we didn't have to go to Atlanta."

Hairy situation: Last year, several Astros players eliminating shaving from their daily routine throughout the postseason. They followed the NHL tradition of not shaving until the playoffs are finished, win or lose.

It appears the trend is back again. Ausmus, Berkman, Jeff Bagwell, Ensberg, Dan Wheeler, Brad Lidge and a few others have been looking quite scraggly lately, all in the name of unity.

Biggio, for those who are wondering, isn't growing a beard. Let's just say facially speaking, he is folically challenged.

The Cardinals appear to be following the tradition, also. Count Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek as two of the hairier Redbirds.

"It's the battle of the beards," Ausmus said. "We stole it from the hockey players and then [the Cardinals] stole it from us."

"They stole it from us just like they stole the 2001 division championship from us," Berkman added, somewhat jokingly.

Berkman wasn't referring to the Cardinals winning the division title in '02 after Houston won it in '01. He was alluding to the Cardinals' decision to refer to themselves as "Co-champions" of the NL Central after the clubs finished with identical records in 2001. The Astros, winners of the season series, were named the division winners, and the Cardinals were the Wild Card team.

"They called themselves co-champions when they weren't," Berkman said. "But that's in the past."

Ring-a-ding-ding: The Astros are still looking for their first World Series appearance, but four Astros have at least one ring: Andy Pettitte (four), Roger Clemens (two), Jose Vizcaino (one) and Orlando Palmeiro (one).

Vizcaino, who was part of the 2000 Yankees team that beat the Mets in the Fall Classic, doesn't wear his World Series ring much anymore.

"I'm tired of it," Vizcaino said. "I want to have a new one."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Less