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“The game is going to catch up with everybody,” Matheny said. “This kid has been absolutely fantastic.”

There’s plenty of blame to go around. That includes Matheny and general manager John Mozeliak for some puzzling roster decisions.

Shelby Miller led major league rookies with 15 wins but pitched just one inning in the postseason, apparently due to concern about his innings load. Edward Mujica, who had 35 saves before falling apart in mid-September, apparently got a bullpen spot as a reward because he logged just two innings.

Before the division series, manager Matheny was asked what role Mujica would have and he answered cryptically: “Right-handed pitcher.”

Going forward, it appears the NL champions have plenty of payroll flexibility. They haven’t said whether they’ll seek a contract extension with Beltran, who would like to stay.

“They know, they know. I made it clear I want to come back,” Beltran said after Game 6. “But we have to see their plans.

“I won’t take anything person if I don’t come back to St. Louis.”

Beltran became a free agent Thursday along with Chris Carpenter, Rafael Furcal and Mujica. The Cardinals declined a $9.5 million option for next year on Jake Westbrook.

Including Beltran, who wrapped up a two-year, $26 million deal, that’s more than $42 million off the payroll for next year.

St. Louis also might decline arbitration on Freese, who made $3 million this year. If rookie Kolten Wong is ready to start at second base, Matt Carpenter would likely move to third.

Factoring into the Beltran decision is the need to find regular playing time for Matt Adams in the outfield except when filling in for Allen Craig at first base and getting top outfield prospect Oscar Taveras into the mix, too. Taveras had been on track to contribute last year before a season-ending ankle injury.