ST. LOUIS -- Six weeks into his tenure, the newest Cardinal still hasn't quite cracked the secret to the franchise's success. But John Axford believes there is something about simply putting on a Cards uniform that produces excellence.
"It's a storied franchise, and I think that gets ingrained in their players coming through," Axford said. "From the other side, you always wondered how and why every guy coming in from the 'pen was throwing 98 [mph] and hitting their spots and doing it in a professional manner, under control and always collected out there on the mound. Being on the other side, it was frustrating.
"Now that I'm here, getting to know these guys and knowing their personalities, there seems to be something that is already instilled in them. They have this sense that they're playing for the Cardinals, and that's something bigger than themselves. You don't come into this clubhouse as an individual, you come in here as a team. The guys who have been here before you make sure you're aware of that. I think that's something that's really special to this organization."
Axford made three scoreless appearances for the Brewers against the Cards in the 2011 National League Championship Series, but he was traded to St. Louis in August of this season for another hard-throwing right-handed reliever, Michael Blazek. Milwaukee was willing to trade Axford within the division because the club intended to nontender him after the season; Axford is earning $5 million and will be arbitration-eligible over the winter.
Not surprisingly, Axford has yet to discuss his status with Cardinals officials.
"I definitely want to wait until the offseason," Axford said. "Right now, I just want to help this ballclub get to the World Series and win the World Series, any way I can."
Craig cleared to increase baseball activity
ST. LOUIS -- During a visit to foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig received clearance to increase his baseball activity. That consent keeps open the possibility of Craig being ready to join the Cards' roster should the team advance past the Dodgers and into the World Series.
Craig, who suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot on Sept. 4, sought out Anderson's opinion after getting positive feedback from the Cardinals' medical staff. Doctors had estimated a recovery period of four to six weeks, which all along had Craig hopeful that he would be able to return before season's end.
Now that there is no concern about reaggravating the injury, Craig simply has to battle time.
"That's kind of where we're at right now that we have to ramp it up and see what we've got," Craig said on Friday. "Hopefully the timing will be good. I could feel it getting better. I'm at the point where I want to see what I can do."
Even while wearing a soft walking boot, Craig has been hitting off a tee for a few weeks now. He anticipates taking actual batting practice soon to further test the timing of his swing. He resumed playing catch on Friday.
The Cardinals are not as eager to push Craig to run, though he's expected to start some mobility work in the next couple of days. He did do some running in the pool on Friday to prevent too much pounding. Having Craig participate in defensive drills is also not a priority -- the Cards could avoid sending Craig into the field altogether in the World Series by using him as a designated hitter and pinch-hitter.
"We still have to be smart about it," general manager John Mozeliak said. "But the doctor feels he's in a pretty good place and is past that stage where he could [make it worse]. If we can get his bat back, that would be how we think about it."
Cards open NLCS with Miller, Lynn available in 'pen
ST. LOUIS -- Still without an announced Game 4 starter, the Cardinals will open the National League Championship Series with both Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller available out of the bullpen.
Miller has pitched just one inning since he wrapped up his regular season with a Sept. 25 start. He said earlier this week that he would likely need to throw an extended bullpen session to get his arm conditioned for multiple innings if St. Louis planned to give him a start in this series. The fact that the Cards have not yet had him do that perhaps hints that the organization is leaning toward starting Lynn in Game 4.
Lynn last pitched a week ago, losing to the Pirates in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. In that game, Lynn allowed five earned runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. He faced the Dodgers once during the regular season, holding them scoreless and striking out nine in a victorious six-inning outing back in May.
Manager Mike Matheny did not indicate how long the Cardinals will wait before officially naming their starter for Game 4, which will be played Tuesday in Los Angeles (7 p.m. CT on TBS).
• The Cardinals stuck with the same starting lineup on Friday that they used to win Games 4 and 5 of the NL Division Series. It includes Pete Kozma batting eighth and playing shortstop for the fourth straight game.
• Mozeliak said that he and Matheny talked about possibly adding a third left-handed reliever for this series, but they eventually decided to keep just two (Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist ). Mozeliak said that having Edward Mujica, who threw a clean inning in the NLDS, available to face left- and right-handed batters helped finalize the team's decision to stand pat.
• Former Cardinals managers Red Schoendienst and Tony La Russa are scheduled to throw out ceremonial first pitches prior to Game 2 on Saturday (airing at 3 p.m. CT on TBS). The Cards will also hold a pregame pep rally in the parking lot of Ballpark Village from noon-2:30 p.m. Former pitcher Jason Simontacchi will sign autographs there beginning at 1:30.
• Carlos Beltran and his wife, Jessica, have announced that they will host a Celebrity Fashion Show in Puerto Rico on Nov. 16, to benefit the Carlos Beltran Foundation. The event, which will be held at 7 p.m. ET at the Dorado Beach Resort, will feature Major League players and their wives modeling the fashions of designer Gustavo Arango. For more information, or to inquire about sponsorships and/or tickets, contact Kimberly Crossett at email@example.com.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.