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Pineiro seeking early-season form

Pineiro seeking early-season form

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HOUSTON -- Joel Pineiro fully expects that when he takes the mound on Tuesday night, he'll be the pitcher Cardinals fans got used to seeing in the first four months of 2009, not the guy who's returned to earth over the past few weeks.

Pineiro believes that in his most recent start, despite a final line that looks ugly, he made a significant correction. After yielding three runs to the Marlins in the first inning Wednesday, he permitted one more over the remaining 4 1/3 frames.

"That first inning, a couple balls were up," Pineiro said. "[Pitching coach Dave Duncan] and some of the guys felt that my stride was getting a little long. If my stride's long, I'm not getting out in front. They said, 'Shorten your stride,' and you see what happened from the second inning on. When I threw my bullpen, I worked on that."

To follow up on the adjustment, Pineiro threw a bullpen session after that start. In recent weeks, he hasn't been throwing off the mound between starts in order to reduce some wear and tear on his arm. But upon recognizing the striding flaw, he felt it would be a good time to throw a side session.

Pineiro knows that due to the timing of his slump, there's a natural wonder about whether he's wearing down. He has a 4.62 ERA in September, and he's pitched more innings this year than in any season since 2003. But he said on Monday that it's merely a coincidence.

"I feel the same," he said. "I feel strong. I feel the same as I did a month and a half ago. It's just fine-tuning things here and there so when it comes to really big games [I'm OK]."

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

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