JUPITER, Fla. -- Kyle McClellan probably won't make the Cardinals forget about Adam Wainwright's season-ending injury. Still, his spring training performance went a long way toward reassuring the St. Louis coaching staff that making him the No. 5 starter was the right choice.
In his final outing of the spring, McClellan allowed one run and three hits over six innings Sunday in a 3-1 victory against the New York Mets.The lone run McClellan allowed actually doubled his Grapefruit League total to two earned runs in 23 innings.
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"He's kept his pitch counts in order. He's been aggressive. He got a lot of groundballs," St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "He's ready to start the season."Duncan said he indicated to McClellan more than a week ago that the right-hander would begin the season in the rotation. McClellan came to Jupiter assured of a spot in the bullpen, where he's been slotted the past three seasons. Wainwright's elbow surgery early in camp forced the Cardinals to adjust their pitching plans.St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said McClellan is slated to start at home against Pittsburgh on April 5, the Cardinals' fifth game of the season."It's a good base, a good foundation, a good pace to start from," McClellan said of his spring performance, "but the real work is about to begin."Uncomfortable with the mound in the first inning, McClellan walked the leadoff batter before inducing a double-play grounder from Russ Adams. Scott Hairston followed with his third homer of the spring.McClellan settled down after that, allowing only three more baserunners on two singles and a walk."I was happy from the second inning on," he said.The Cardinals tied the score in the second when Gerald Laird's groundout drove in Nick Stavinoha. Allen Craig delivered the decisive blow an inning later, knocking a 1-0 pitch from Jonathon Niese over the left-field fence for a two-run homer. McClellan was aboard after reaching on a walk.Craig went 2-for-3, the only player with a multihit game.Stavinoha was a late addition to the lineup. St. Louis scratched left fielder Matt Holliday shortly before game time because of a sore big toe on his right foot."I figure that since I've played something like 17 of the last 18 games I could stand to sit one," said Holliday, who could return to the lineup as early as Monday.Niese allowed three runs, four hits and a walk in five innings."I made a few mistakes and it cost me, but it's a learning experience," he said. "I worked all my pitches in well. Obviously I still need to work on some things. Now, it's just to the point where I'm going out there and getting outs."