Tyler Lyons says he didn't set any sort of timetable for when he wanted to make his first Major League start. And he knows he can't control the length of his initial stint in The Show, temporary though it may be with Jake Westbrook on his way back.
But that won't take away from his Major League debut Wednesday night, when the left-hander faces fellow rookie Burch Smith and the Padres at Petco Park.
"We celebrate with the fact that this is something he's dreamt about since he was a kid. This is a big deal, a big accomplishment," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I encourage him that it's 60 feet, 6 inches here like it was in [Triple-A] Memphis. Make your pitches. Jump in to do the work that everybody else is doing. Do the preparation. And do everything that you have been doing that has given you success up to this point. And just trust your stuff."
Lyons is the latest rookie pitcher the Cardinals have called upon this season, making the jump from Triple-A to take Jaime Garcia's spot in the rotation. St. Louis now has three rookie starters -- Shelby Miller, John Gast and Lyons, the Major League-high sixth rookie to pitch for the Cardinals this season. But their youth hasn't held them back, as those rookies already have compiled 10 wins.
Lyons expects to have some family and friends in San Diego to see his big league debut. The ninth-round Draft pick out of Oklahoma State University in 2009 was 2-1 with a 4.47 ERA in eight starts for Memphis, and he found out Saturday night that his next pitch would come on a Major League mound. Lyons was hopeful that his experience in big league Spring Training this year helped prepare him for Wednesday and beyond.
"I think being there was huge for me, just in being comfortable when I get in here in the clubhouse and in the game situations, facing other big league clubs and big league hitters," Lyons said. "I think being in Spring Training gives me a sense of comfort going into [Wednesday]."
He'll be facing a Padres club that has been hot as of late, Tuesday's 10-2 loss notwithstanding. San Diego has scored 94 runs over its last 20 games, an average of 4.7 per game. And while the Cardinals are 17-8 since April 24 to lead the National League, the Padres are second with a 16-9 record during that stretch.
"I think confidence and momentum go a long way in any professional sport. I think the guys are feeling good about how we're playing," Padres manager Bud Black said. "You'd rather have that than the other way, because that happens, too, during the course of a season. You try to lengthen those times when you feel good about everything, and you try to cut short those times when you're not playing with a lot of confidence.
"We're in one of those streaks right now where the guys feel good about what's going on, and we're going to try to continue to capitalize on it."
San Diego will look to even things up behind Smith, seeking his first win in just his third Major League start. Smith pitched better his second time out, striking out eight and working 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Nationals on Friday.
Cardinals: Freese hopes to return
David Freese didn't play Tuesday night due to continued swelling in the area around his right thumb that required three stitches Sunday. The stitches will come out Friday, but Freese hopes to get back in the starting lineup Wednesday, saying his hand felt "better" Tuesday than it did a day earlier.
Matheny thought the padding and bandage on Freese's right hand might have affected his throwing, had he played Tuesday.
"He wasn't quite ready to go and let the ball go clean out of his hand on the throw," Matheny said. "He's swinging pretty good. There's a chance he could rip it open."
• Eduardo Sanchez, once a top relief pitching prospect for the Cardinals, was claimed off waivers Tuesday by the Cubs. Sanchez had been in the Cardinals' organization for eight years since being signed as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela. St. Louis took Sanchez off the 40-man roster to make room for Lyons.
Padres: Quentin sits with sore knee
After an awkward slide into home plate Monday night, outfielder Carlos Quentin didn't play in the Padres' 10-2 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday due to a sore knee. Black expected to have Quentin back in the lineup Wednesday night.
"We're going to manage his usage and maximize everything we can with his playing time," Black said.
• Will Venable leads the Padres with seven homers and is second with eight stolen bases. His speed is hardly a surprise -- he stole 79 bases in 400 games from 2010-12 -- but he's already two homers away from tying his total from each of the past two seasons.
"I have been able to square some balls up and my swing just kind of has that trajectory," Venable said. "When I am squaring them up, they're going out of the park instead of more line drives."
"That's a dangerous combination, when you have a guy with the ability to steal bases and also power," added Black. "The pitcher thinks about that."
• The Padres have scored first in seven of their last eight games dating back to May 14. They've gone 5-2 in those games and 16-7 on the season when scoring first.
• Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay has a hit in 16 of his last 17 starts, batting .417 (25-for-60) during that stretch.