Looper takes big step foward

Looper takes big step foward

JUPITER, Fla. -- Braden Looper got a little peace of mind on Thursday.

After consecutive rocky starts, Looper turned in a fine game in his fourth start of the spring, stemming a slide that had seen his Grapefruit League ERA reach double figures. Looper pitched 5 1/3 innings against the Marlins, holding Florida to five hits, one run and two walks while striking out two.

The only run against Looper came on a ball that was ruled a double from Jorge Cantu, but probably should have been caught by Chris Duncan in left field. Other than that, Looper was in control.

"I think it was a step forward," manager Tony La Russa said. "I think he was really concentrating well and he made a lot of quality-location pitches."

Looper received six days' rest between starts, allowing him to throw two bullpen sessions. He worked extensively on getting the ball down, and making sure he concentrated fully on the pitch at hand.

In his previous two starts, Looper had been touched for 12 runs in 6 1/3 innings. He was in no jeopardy of losing his starting rotation spot, but he was hungry for some success.

"He needs to start building on something he feels good about," La Russa said. "I'm sure he [feels good] today."

Looper will likely start the fourth game of the Cardinals' season, on Friday, April 4 against the Nationals at Busch Stadium.

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