Isringhausen close to ready

Monday, March 19, 2007

JUPITER, Fla. -- The closer the Cardinals get to opening day the more it appears pitcher Jason Isringhausen will be ready for the season.

Isringhausen started and faced three batters in the Cardinals' 5-4 victory Sunday. The right-handed closer threw 15 pitches, nine for strikes, and struck out Carlos Beltran looking on a cutter.

Isringhausen has pitched two scoreless innings in his attempt to come back from September hip surgery.

"I'm just trying to fine-tune everything before I get out of here and go into the season with what I think my strengths are," Isringhausen said. "My arm feels good and the hip is staying intact."

Barring a setback, team doctor George Paletta "remains optimistic" that Isringhausen will be ready for the start of the season.

"Izzy recovered exceedingly well after his first outing," Paletta said. "We're close to the point where it becomes a baseball decision."

Isringhausen would like to pitch on consecutive days before heading north. He has appeared in two games -- starting both so he would face the opponents' toughest hitters -- and is expected to pitch Wednesday and Friday.

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