ST. LOUIS -- It was about 10 days ago that the Cardinals reached out to former postseason hero Jeff Suppan, saying they'd love to have him throw out the ceremonial first pitch if they made it to the National League Championship Series.
Suppan obliged and didn't back down -- even though St. Louis' opponent represented a bit of an awkward situation.
See, Cards and Brewers fans tend to have two very drastic viewpoints of Suppan.
Cards fans, for the most part, love him -- he pitched three solid years in St. Louis, culminating in a 2006 season when he was named the NLCS Most Valuable Player and helped win a World Series. Brewers fans? Not so much. Suppan signed a four-year, $42 million contract with Milwaukee in '07, then posted a 29-36 record and a 5.08 ERA before being released three months into the 2010 season.
Regardless, Suppan -- appropriately wearing a red- and blue-striped long-sleeve shirt -- took the mound before the start of Game 3 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night. He called the experience "weird, but it's not in a bad way.
"It was just one of those things where, when I ran out to the mound, I can say hello to both teams," Suppan said with a smile.
"For me, it was a great honor to come out and throw the first pitch," he added. "I was hoping to throw a strike, but I think it was up and away."
Suppan, who said he still feels a "very strong connection" to St. Louis, went 138-143 with a 4.69 ERA while pitching for six different organizations in 16 seasons in the big leagues. After being released by the Brewers, he re-signed with the Cardinals and posted a 3.84 ERA in 70 1/3 innings to close out last season.
This year, he swallowed his pride and spent the entire 2011 campaign with the Royals' Triple-A squad in Omaha -- one he proudly points out won the Pacific Coast League championship -- going 11-8 with a 4.78 ERA in 28 games (27 starts).
Somehow, the 36-year-old right-hander wants to keep pitching.
"I enjoy playing; I enjoy pitching," Suppan said. "I feel like I was healthy this year, and I was able to go out and make some starts and help the team. ... I'm just going to get ready for next year, and whatever happens, I'd like to go to Spring Training, hopefully have a chance to make a team. So, we'll see."
Mozeliak notes changing NL Central landscape
ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers won the National League Central with 96 wins, and the Cardinals claimed the Wild Card with 90 wins. Both are in the NL Championship Series.
Based on Wednesday's big non-postseason news, the division is on the verge of getting even stronger.
Theo Epstein, the architect of two World Series titles with the Red Sox, is reportedly about to sign a five-year deal to run the Cubs' baseball operations.
"All jobs have their challenges, and all divisions have their own challenges," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said prior to Wednesday's NLCS Game 3. "But when you look at the landscape of the Central, it's obviously changing. New ownership in Chicago. Potential new ownership in Houston. Both are major markets. If you compared it to say, maybe 10 years ago, the look would be different."
Epstein is a proven winner and one of the highest profile executives in the game.
"When you look at that type of hire, they're obviously changing their strategy and how they're going about it," Mozeliak said. "Not knowing what they're going to do or how they're going to attack it doesn't necessarily mean instant success for 2012, but they surely are looking at this long term and for that leadership."
Under Epstein's watch, the Red Sox ended an 86-year World Series drought when they won the title in 2004. The Cubs, of course, are looking to put to rest a "curse" that has lasted more than 100 years.
"There is unique history in the sense of what [Epstein had] in Boston," Mozeliak said. "It had been a while since they had success, especially to the level that he brought them to. Obviously, Chicago is trying to replicate that. But I don't want to speak for them."
Holliday in no danger of being spelled by Craig
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Holliday's power appears to be sapped a bit since his latest return from a right hand injury, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is convinced that his cleanup hitter is healthy and fully effective. So there's just about no chance of seeing Holliday take a seat, unless his injury begins hampering him again.
Holliday is 5-for-16 (.313) in the playoffs with a .368 on-base percentage, but has no extra-base hits. La Russa was asked Wednesday whether Allen Craig might get a start in place of Holliday, but the manager said there's very little chance.
"I think just the fact that you're asking that question is a heck of a compliment to what Allen did this year and what he showed last year," La Russa said. "If you're talking about Holliday, you're talking about one of the best hitters in either league, and if he's healthy, Craig has got a lot of learning to be at the same level.
"Same thing with Lance [Berkman]. He could play right field instead of Lance, but when those two guys are there, that's why you work so hard sometimes to get Craig playing time at other positions, because he can be very productive. But both guys being healthy, I mean, it's not a tough call. Allen is not Matt yet."
Musial, fellow Cards Hall of Famers honored
ST. LOUIS -- Threatening weather deprived Cardinals fans of a potential appearance by the Budweiser Clydesdales on Wednesday night. Given the consolation prize, it's fair to say that almost none of them were disappointed.
The greatest Cardinal of them all, Stan Musial, made an appearance at Busch Stadium instead. Musial joined fellow Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Red Schoendienst on the field before the first pitch of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.
Jeff Suppan, a hero of the Cards' wins in the 2004 and '06 NLCSs, threw a ceremonial first pitch to Adam Wainwright, then the Hall of Famers were honored. Brock, Gibson and Schoendienst took the field at home plate. Then Musial was brought in on a golf cart from the right-field corner, a surprise to many in attendance, and of course was greeted with a massive ovation.
Musial, who turns 91 in November, is the franchise's greatest player and the holder of nearly every major Cardinals batting record. He batted .331 with a .417 on-base percentage, a .559 slugging percentage, 475 home runs and 1951 RBIs in 3,026 games, every one of them with the Cardinals.
Brewers own NL's best mark at current Busch
ST. LOUIS -- The Brewers have scuffled, relatively, away from Miller Park this year. But don't try to convince Cardinals manager Tony La Russa that they'll be any kind of pushover for Games 3-5 of the National League Championship Series.
Asked about such a home-road disparity, La Russa noted an interesting fact: No divisional foe has had more success at the current Busch Stadium the Brewers. In fact, no other NL Central team even has a winning record in the ballpark, while Milwaukee is 28-24.
The next-best record within the division belongs to the Cubs, who are 24-27. Among NL teams, only the Brewers, Phillies (15-11) and Giants (10-9) have winning marks over the six seasons at the current park.
"Stats are weird," La Russa said. "They have a tremendous amount of confidence playing at home. They struggle some on the road. But the thing that brings us back into reality here is, since the ballpark opened in 2006, Milwaukee has probably had more success, or as much as maybe Philadelphia, playing here. So they have confidence they can play in our ballpark.
"I even think that potential edge for us is not something we should count on. Just going to have to play the game."
Brown claimed off waivers by Colorado
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals' decision to add Lance Lynn to the roster for the National League Championship Series has already paid dividends. However, it has also come at a cost.
The Rockies claimed Andrew Brown off waivers on Wednesday, three days after the Cardinals designated him for assignment. In order to activate Lynn from the 60-day disabled list, St. Louis had to make room on the 40-man roster. The casualty was Brown, who now goes to the Colorado organization.
Brown, 27, appeared in 11 games for the Cards in 2011, going 4-for-22 with a double, three RBIs, no walks and eight strikeouts. He was an 18th-round Draft pick in '07. The first baseman/outfielder hit .284 with a .382 on-base percentage, a .501 slugging percentage, 20 home runs and 73 RBIs at Triple-A Memphis this year.
Batting practice bagged, clubs hit indoors
ST. LOUIS -- Though the decision no doubt came as a disappointment to some fans, batting practice was not held on the field at Busch Stadium prior to Wednesday's Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. With rain impending, the choice was made in the name of fairness, according to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak.
Instead, both the Cardinals and Brewers hit indoors. The hope was to avoid a situation where one team got to hit on the field and the other did not.
"We have our fingers crossed that we can get this game played on time, and we can play," Mozeliak said.
"The batting practice decision is based on if it started raining, it wouldn't be fair for one club over the other. Both have cages. So both can hit in cages."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.