Cardinals 9, Mets 8

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Johan Santana was scratched from his second straight start by the New York Mets because of a sore left elbow.

After Santana missed a scheduled "B" game appearance Friday against Italy's national team, the Mets said their ace would not take his turn Tuesday against the St. Louis Cardinals. That was to have been his first regular spring training game appearance of the year.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel said after the Mets lost 9-8 to the Cardinals on Friday that because spring training is nearly a week longer this year due to the World Baseball Classic, he decided to be "extra cautious" with his ace.

"There's no hurry with Johan in spring training if he's experiencing any discomfort," Manuel said.

Mets pitchers Livan Hernandez pitched two scoreless innings, needing just 18 pitches to retire the Cardinals. He is competing with Freddy Garcia for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

"I know I can help this team," Hernandez said. "I don?t want to take a spot from nobody on the team. I want to earn a spot on the team."

Garcia, meanwhile, struggled with his control and had to be pulled after just two-thirds of an inning. Garcia walked three and gave up two hits in allowing four runs.

"I feel fine, I was just throwing the ball all over the place," Garcia said. "I couldn't find the strike zone or anything. I?m always slow (in spring training), but this year is different because I've got to be ready. I've got to fight for a spot. I've got to perform. I've got to pitch good."

Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer gave up three runs and four hits in two innings and Jarrett Hoffpauir had two hits and two RBIs.

Santana, who had arthroscopic surgery Oct. 1 on torn cartilage in his left knee, didn't think the tightness in his elbow was related to rushing back from the knee surgery too soon, but rather from overuse early in camp.

"I've been throwing bullpens here every other day, and I don't think I've ever done that in the past," Santana said Thursday. "The reason why is because we wanted to test my knee and make sure everything is fine, throwing every other day off the mound."

He threw off a mound for the first time since the offseason surgery on Feb. 10 and has faced no setbacks with the leg.

"My knee is fine," the two-time AL Cy Young Award winner said. "There's no problem, but it takes some time to get adjusted to pitching and throwing 100 percent off the mound, so right now I am just taking my time. There is no need to rush. My focus is on April 6."

Santana went 16-7 last year with a major league-best 2.53 ERA in his first season with the Mets.

Bobby Kielty hit a three-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning for the Mets.

Game notes
Closer Francisco Rodriguez made his spring debut, striking out two and walking one in an inning of work for the Mets in a 5-4 win over Italy earlier Friday. ... The Mets agreed to a minor league contract with LHP Ron Villone, who was invited to big league camp. The 39-year-old spent last year with the St. Louis Cardinals and went 1-2 with one save and a 4.68 ERA in 74 games.