ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa sounds like he wants to return as St. Louis Cardinals manager next season.
Before Game 5 of the NL championship series Friday night, La Russa expressed excitement about the talent in place. He said there was so much right-handed depth in the bullpen that some pitchers might have to be viewed as starters, even though the team already has its rotation in place for 2012.
"We don't get into 2012, but I think it's a fair comment to make: What's happened to this club on the right-handed bullpen side is very exciting going forward," La Russa said.
The 67-year-old La Russa has dropped other hints in recent days that he wants a 17th season with the Cardinals, mentioning plans for his annual Animal Rescue Foundation event during the team's Winter Warmup in January.
"Our focus is right now, we're not talking about 2012 or anybody's free agency," La Russa said. "The nucleus of this club, I think it's pretty well set. There are a lot of things that are for sure about next year's club that I think make it literally an outstanding situation."
But then he stopped himself.
"Baseball gods," he said, "that is the last time I'm going to talk about 2012."
Another milestone is within range. La Russa's 2,728 regular-season victories over 33 seasons as a manager rank third on the career list behind Connie Mack (3,731) and John McGraw (2,763).
La Russa also was third on the career list with 64 postseason victories, trailing Joe Torre (84) and Bobby Cox (67).