Notes: Ponson eager for next start

Notes: Ponson eager for next start

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- While most of his teammates are itching to get out of Florida and start playing games that count, Sidney Ponson is just as happy he has one more dry run.

Ponson struggled through his final Grapefruit League start on Thursday against the Mets, allowing four runs in four innings as he took the loss.

"If I had to go with that, I would be [angry], going into the season with that stuff," Ponson said. "I'll go tomorrow and work hard and get myself mentally prepared for my next start. I've got to make sure I make quality pitches and go deeper into the game than I did."

Ponson received little help from his defense, which committed a pair of errors, but on the other hand he didn't help himself much. The right-hander issued four walks, equaling the highest total by a Cardinals pitcher this spring, and struck out two.

"I missed a lot down in the zone, and when I brought it up they hit me," he said. "It's a good thing that they didn't score 10 runs. At least I kept us in the game a little bit."

The next start for Ponson will come on Tuesday, when he helps inaugurate new Busch Stadium in the exhibition game between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. He will make his first regular-season start in a Cardinals uniform in the sixth game of the year -- Sunday, April 9 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Manager Tony La Russa wasn't pleased with much of what his team did on Thursday, so he was hesitant to single out Ponson.

"I just think overall, whether it was the offense, the defense or the pitching, we got outplayed," he said when asked about his starting pitcher. "That's why we got beat."

Molina's errors: One of the most surprising developments of recent days has been a run of errors by Yadier Molina. A serious Gold Glove candidate in 2005 and the most effective controller of the running game in all of baseball last year, Molina has been charged with three errors in the past two games.

Molina said he had a little bit of a tired arm on Wednesday, but that he was feeling better on Thursday.

La Russa, meanwhile, would not hear of criticism of his catcher's performance.

"Our pitchers are doing a [lousy] job of defending the running game, so he's tried to hurry his throws," said the manager.

Good as new: John Rodriguez returned to the lineup after missing a day with muscle spasms in his left shoulder. And just as he had been doing before he got hurt, Rodriguez hit the ball well on Thursday.

Rodriguez ripped a line drive to center for an out in his first plate appearance, and lined a single to left in his second. He also drew a walk, an increasingly common occurrence. Since March 16, Rodriguez is 8-for-22 with seven walks.

"Little things, to me, are huge things," Rodriguez said. "They're not even little things to me. They're big. Like getting on base for the big guys or coming through in the clutch with two-out RBIs, getting an RBI whichever way you can, drawing walks. It's like it is in Little League; walks are as good as hits. When you get on base, it's good. I just want to do anything positive that I can to help the team."

La Russa has played it close to the vest regarding his final cut on the bench, but it will be extremely difficult to keep Rodriguez off the team. He would be the only left-handed power source on the Cardinals bench.

Bits and pieces: Jim Edmonds, who has a bone bruise on his right heel, did not appear in Thursday's game, but is expected to play Friday. ... La Russa arrived at Tradition Field via helicopter on Thursday. He flew in with David Pratt, one of the club's owners. ... The Stan Musial statue from old Busch Stadium will be installed at new Busch on Friday afternoon. It will be located at the bridge entrance at Gate 3, at Spruce and Eighth Streets.

Quotable: "I don't care whether it's the first day of camp, the last day of camp, anywhere in the season. You go out and play the game right. When we're not playing right, I'm never and I don't think anybody should ever be satisfied with it. I don't care when it is -- early, middle, late, Spring Training, season. We did things that are not right and that never makes you pleased about the game you watched." -- La Russa

Weather report: More of the same is on tap for Friday. The high temperature at St. Lucie is forecast to reach 80 degrees, with only a few clouds, no rain and winds upwards of 15 mph.

Coming up: The same two teams meet up again on Friday -- same bat-time, same bat-ballpark. It's Mark Mulder against Pedro Martinez in a 12:10 p.m. CT start at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.