ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman had to be prodded out of the Cardinals' dugout and onto the on-deck circle in the seventh inning. Still physically compromised by a knee ailment, Berkman knew he had little to offer the offense, which -- at the time -- was being shut out by the Reds.
Manager Mike Matheny didn't care. It was the moment that mattered, and Matheny wanted to ensure that a sellout crowd of 42,509 at Busch Stadium would have an opportunity to recognize Berkman, not only for his contributions as a Cardinal over the last two seasons, but also for Berkman's 14-year career of achievements.
"He didn't think it was going to be all that big of a deal," Matheny said. "He thought he might walk out there and hear crickets."
Not a chance.
The reception, which included a standing ovation from the crowd and everyone in the Cardinals' dugout, was resounding. Berkman doffed his helmet and later waved his hand in appreciation. After grounding out, he jogged into the dugout while fans continued their applause.
"It was a very nice moment for me being out there and really just a chance to tip my hat to the crowd -- a great city, a great group of fans," Berkman said. "Obviously, I've just enjoyed the heck out of my time here. That was one of those mutual thank yous. I really just wanted to thank the crowd and the city of St. Louis. I'm glad I got a chance to put on the Cardinal uniform.
"It's pretty emotional, it definitely is for me. But looking back on it, I'm sure I'll really appreciate it more as I go along."
Unless he makes an unexpected appearance on a postseason roster, Berkman's career in St. Louis is likely over. After being healthy enough to take only 81 at-bats this year, Berkman is set to be a free agent. The Cardinals won't have a spot for him, with Allen Craig and Carlos Beltran slated to return.
Berkman has admitted this season that there is a chance his career may conclude with the close of the 2012 campaign. If that's the case, Wednesday's at-bat would be the 6,235th and final one of Berkman's career. The switch-hitter has a lifetime average of .296, with 412 doubles, 360 home runs and 1,200 RBIs.
"I certainly thought about it maybe being the last time," Berkman said. "You don't have the right perspective to deal with it at that time. I'm sure looking back on it, it will be a lot different than it was in the moment."
Berkman said he will wait until the offseason to come to a more concrete decision. He continues to rehab his right knee -- which he's already had two procedures on this year -- in case the Cardinals advance deep enough into the postseason for him to become a consideration for the roster.
"If I can't get to the point where I can move around, where I feel like I can be competitive at the plate, then it doesn't make any sense to go back on the playoff roster," Berkman said. "We'll just see how it progresses."
Cardinals mum on Wild Card game roster
ST. LOUIS -- Everything about the National League Wild Card game in Atlanta on Friday is new, including the opportunity to construct a 25-man roster solely for one game.
That means, unlike later postseason rounds, the Cardinals will not need to include several starting pitchers on the roster. Instead, the roster can be fortified by adding extra position players and relievers -- or by including starting pitchers who would be available out of the bullpen.
It all sets up to make for fascinating theater between Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, both of whom will have the opportunity to be more aggressive because of extra available players.
"It changes it," Matheny said on Wednesday, a day after the Cardinals clinched the second NL Wild Card spot. "There's not a whole lot of protocol for us. It's pretty unique. We've gone through quite a few different things trying to weigh out pros and cons."
The Cardinals will announce their 25-man Wild Card roster on Thursday. Matheny chose not to even divulge the breakdown of position players and pitchers for the game. Gonzalez told reporters earlier this week that he may carry as many as 16 position players and intends to have three starting pitchers on his roster.
Regulars get rest in Cards' regular-season finale
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers' loss to the Giants on Tuesday night erased the potential for any drama in the Cardinals' final regular-season home game. It also gave manager Mike Matheny a chance to rest his regulars. Of that, he took full advantage.
Knowing that the second National League Wild Card is already theirs, the Cardinals trotted out a lineup on Wednesday that looked like one more appropriate for Grapefruit League play than a Major League game. But the fact that nothing was riding on this game -- the Reds are no longer in contention to have the NL's best record -- eased Matheny's concerns about sending out a less-experienced bunch.
Matheny noted that this offered fans the opportunity to watch players that they may not know as much about. The much larger intent, though, was to give everyone else a night to rest. With the Wild Card race going down to the final days of the season, Matheny has had little opportunity to give his starters a break. Matt Holliday and Carlos Beltran are among those who have played through nagging injuries during the stretch run.
Three of the organization's September callups -- Adron Chambers, Ryan Jackson and Bryan Anderson -- all started on Wednesday. Another September callup, Shelby Miller, made the start, the first of his Major League career. That allows the Cardinals to keep Adam Wainwright rested going into the postseason.
Cards set to travel to Atlanta to continue Wild ride
ST. LOUIS -- Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday that Friday's National League Wild Card game between the Cardinals and Braves will start at 4:07 p.m. CT. The elimination game will be on TBS, which will then televise the American League Wild Card game later that night.
Even with the off-day on Thursday, the Cardinals will travel to Atlanta after wrapping up the regular season at home on Wednesday night. The club will hold a 2 p.m. workout at Turner Field on Thursday. The Braves are scheduled to work out earlier in the afternoon.
With the Nationals' victory on Wednesday afternoon, the Cardinals also know how the schedule will shake out if they can move past the Braves. By finishing with the NL's best record, Washington will draw the winner of the Wild Card game in the best-of-five NL Division Series.
The winning Wild Card team would host the first two games of that NLDS, with Game 1 scheduled for Sunday. The Reds and Giants will meet in the other NL best-of-five series.
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.