HOUSTON -- St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan rejoined the team Wednesday for the final game of the regular season after missing more than a month to tend to his ailing wife.
Duncan's wife, Jeanine, is recovering from surgery on Aug. 21 to remove a brain tumor. Duncan, manager Tony La Russa's trusted assistant since the early 1980s, did not know how long he would be able to stay with the club because his wife has more medical appointments scheduled.
The Cardinals were tied with Atlanta for the NL wild card heading into Wednesday's game at Houston.
Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist has taken over Duncan's duties in his absence. La Russa says it's been "really weird" not having Duncan for the past month.
"The biggest compliment is that we've taken his process for the guys who've been around him, and worked the process," La Russa said. "Derek's done a good job, but we're doing Dave's work."
The Cardinals have played well in Duncan's absence, making up a 10½-game deficit to pull even with the Braves in the wild-card race. La Russa did not know how much Duncan would be available beyond Wednesday's game, if St. Louis makes the playoffs.
Duncan joined La Russa with the Chicago White Sox in 1983, and they worked together in Oakland (1986-95) before arriving in St. Louis before the 1996 season.
"I would love to have him around all the time," La Russa said. "I'm not going to make him uncomfortable."