McClellan makes another strong spring start

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Kyle McClellan throws during the second inning of Tuesday's spring training game against the Braves in Jupiter, Fla. (Associated Press)

JUPITER, Fla. -- Kyle McClellan made another strong statement in his bid for the St. Louis Cardinals' vacant starting spot. He has been endorsed by pitching coach Dave Duncan and is on a schedule that would allow him to start the second game of the season in place of injured Adam Wainwright.

It looks promising, but nothing's official yet.

"He's certainly making a claim, and it shouldn't surprise anybody," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after McClellan tossed five sharp innings in a 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. "He's creating a heck of an act to follow, but we don't have to decide yet."

La Russa said he hoped to make the final call by the last week of spring training. The Cardinals still could choose to add an established starter with a trade or in the free-agent market.

The 26-year-old McClellan is 2-0 with an 0.75 ERA in three spring starts. He's given up one run and six hits with nine strikeouts and three walks in 12 innings.

"This is big for me because I had to come in and do this," said McClellan, who held the Braves to one hit. "I had to have a good spring and show that I can do it and my teammates more than anything can have faith in me.

"You always have a chip on your shoulder for people that question whether or not you can do it, and I like proving people wrong."

Atlanta's Derek Lowe also was stingy in a five-inning stint, giving up a run and four hits. But the Braves were held to three hits for a two-game total of one run and five hits with five errors -- four errors came Tuesday.

Before the two-game series, the Braves had won four in a row and outscored opponents 27-3.

Lowe, a 16-game winner last year, has progressed an inning in each of his last three starts and said he hasn't been given pitch count limits.

"As long as you feel physically you can go back out for another inning, that's what you want to feel," Lowe said. "You don't want to feel like 'How am I going to get through this last inning?'"

Skip Schumaker had two hits and three RBIs for St. Louis, including a two-run single off Scott Proctor that capped a three-run sixth and made it 4-0. The runs were unearned after first baseman Freddie Freeman couldn't handle Yadier Molina's liner for an error.

McClellan was a setup man the last two seasons and is expected to step in for Wainwright, a 20-game winner last year who's out for the season following reconstructive elbow surgery. Wainwright is expected in camp as early as today to begin rehabilitation.

Lowe has given up one run in 14 spring innings, an 0.64 ERA. The first run came when Colby Rasmus doubled with one out in the second and scored on Schumaker's two-out single. Schumaker is batting .414 with four RBIs, coming off a disappointing season in which he batted .265 with five homers and 42 RBIs.

"I felt like I was a big part of the reason why we didn't get to the playoffs, and hopefully I can be a reason why we get there this year," Schumaker said. "It was a tough year, no doubt about it, mentally physically, eveything about it.

"But I felt like I found something in the second half and carried that over, and hopefully I can carry it over from spring to the real season."

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