Mets beat the Cards, 5-4

March 6, 2009 5:33:29 PM PST
Chris Carpenter is healthy and making progress. Beset by arm injuries the past two seasons, Carpenter made his second start of the spring Friday and pitched out of trouble for two scoreless innings in the St. Louis Cardinals' 5-4 loss to the New York Mets.

"He didn't have great command of his fastball, but they didn't score - and they had guys on base to do it," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "I would rather him not get taxed, but he passed the test and felt fine."

It wasn't as smooth as Carpenter's first outing last Saturday, when the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner tossed a pair of hitless innings on 19 pitches against Washington. But he managed to keep the Mets off the scoreboard, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out one.

"That was definitely more of a battle than last time," said Carpenter, who threw 22 of his 37 pitches for strikes. "My location wasn't as good as the first time, but I made some good pitches. I made some nice pitches with my changeup."

Carpenter has been limited to five appearances over the past two years due to a series of arm injuries. He had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and nerve transposition surgery on his right elbow in November.

"I felt strong today and that may have been the issue with my location," Carpenter said. "There's no question it's nice to go out and not have to wonder if my arm's going to be sore. My arm has recovered nicely between starts. I've felt good since I've been down here. I'm excited just to go out and compete."

Jon Niese, competing with Freddy Garcia, Livan Hernandez and Tim Redding for the final spot in New York's rotation, followed uninspiring outings from Hernandez and Garcia by allowing two runs, two hits and two walks in two innings.

Niese breezed through the first inning, catching Albert Pujols looking at a curveball for strike three. The 22-year-old lefty issued a leadoff walk to Rick Ankiel in the second and a one-out single to Chris Duncan. Both runners advanced on a passed ball, then scored on Khalil Greene's single.

Though manager Jerry Manuel was pleased with Niese's outing, it didn't do much to push him to the front of the competition. Niese has a 9.00 ERA this spring. Hernandez (5.79) and Garcia (20.25) have also struggled, while Redding, nursing a sore shoulder, has yet to appear in a Grapefruit League game.

"They are all going to get opportunities," Manuel said.

"Every time they go out there is a time of evaluation. As they begin to stretch out and as the hitters begin to catch up it will probably give us a better read than what we have right now."

The Mets went ahead in the ninth when Marlon Anderson's single scored Jose Valentin. Rocky Cherry earned the save, stranding Colby Rasmus at third.

Notes: Mets ace Johan Santana is scheduled to throw batting practice before Saturday's game against Washington. Santana, who has been nursing an irritated triceps tendon, was expected to throw several bullpens before facing hitters, but it appears the Mets have accelerated his schedule, perhaps putting him back in line for the opening-day start in Cincinnati. ... New York OF Angel Pagan was a late scratch from the lineup due to a sore elbow. SS Reese Havens, a first-round pick in last June's draft, also was removed from the lineup with a tight hamstring. Havens was brought in from minor league camp to help fill in while 16 Mets participate in the World Baseball Classic. ... Tickets for the Mets final exhibition games, April 3 and 4 at new Citi Field against Boston, went on sale Friday morning and sold out in 45 minutes.