Lyons debuts for Cardinals with one inning

Lefty not expected to be ready for Opening Day

Lyons debuts for Cardinals with one inning

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With an earlier-than-anticipated return from offseason surgery, Tyler Lyons threw one inning in his Grapefruit League debut on Sunday, two weeks ahead of the team's first regular-season game.

It's still unlikely that Lyons will be ready for that opener, but he's positioned himself for a possible summons later in April by working his way back to game play as quickly as he did. Four months after undergoing surgery to address a right knee injury that ended his 2016 season in July, Lyons allowed two runs on two hits in a 5-2 win over the Braves. He also walked one and struck out one.

"Injury-wise, I felt great," Lyons said after the game. "I had no issues with that. For me, I think it was about getting back out there. There was a little extra adrenaline. The speed of everything was a little quicker with the excitement to get back there."

Lyons prepared for the outing with a trio of live batting practice sessions over the past two weeks. During that stretch, Lyons also received assurance from the medical staff that he had no mobility limitations.

Now comes getting everything else in order. Lyons' command was a bit all over the place at times on Sunday, and he acknowledged tiring toward the end of the inning. That's to be expected with the lack of pitching work he's had over the last seven-plus months.

"There is still a ways to go," Lyons said. "[But] there was a time when I didn't know when this would happen. I'm pleased it did happen now."

It probably didn't happen early enough for Lyons to make a push for the Opening Day roster. Lyons' status is further complicated by the fact that he is out of options. But the Cardinals can buy additional time to make the decision on where he might fit by having him begin the season on the disabled list.

That would also afford Lyons the opportunity to build his arm strength up as a starter would, in case the Cardinals view him as a long-relief or sixth-starter option.

"Right now, I think we're just anticipating that he's had a late start," manager Mike Matheny said. "We're halfway through this thing and he's just now seeing the mound for real. So we anticipate him being behind. But that could change depending on what the need is."

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.