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Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Cards 7, Mets 1: Pelf allows 2 HRs

By Adam Rubin

Mike Pelfrey allowed a two-run homer to David Freese and a solo shot to Yadier Molina among the first six batters he faced. But the right-hander started using first-pitch curveballs, cutters and changeups and settled down to complete 4 1/3 innings as the Mets lost to the Cardinals, 7-1, Tuesday at Digital Domain Park.

Pelfrey said neither long ball came on a two-seam fastball (sinker). That is the pitch Pelfrey is trying to reinvigorate this season after allowing 21 homers in 2011, an increase of nine from the previous season when he won a career-high 15 games. Still, Pelfrey acknowledged, his pitches were up too much in the zone early on Tuesday.

“They came out aggressive swinging, and I didn’t do the best of job trying to locate my fastball. That’s when I got hurt,” Pelfrey said. “I had just gone in with a two-seamer that Freese actually fouled off. And the next one was a cutter away -- and it was kind of a cutter up and over the middle and he hit that out. And then Molina was a four-seamer away and I threw it right down the middle -- in -- and he hit it. Bad location.

“The whole idea is to get better as each start goes on. And I felt I was a lot better than last week. I wasn’t very good last week (4 ER in 2.2 IP vs. Marlins), so I don’t know how much that says. But I was better today. The next start we’ll try to get better again.”

Said Terry Collins: “In the third and fourth, and actually the fifth, innings, there was some depth to his sinker. Even in the first inning he threw some balls in on some guys that really had good run in. … I think it’s coming.”

Carlos Beltran went 1-for-4 with a seventh-inning single against Ramon Ramirez in his first game against the Mets since last July’s trade. The crowd, split among Mets and Cardinals fans, offered modest applause but no significant reaction when Beltran stepped to the plate in the first inning. In fact, the Cardinals faithful were far more boisterous in welcoming Freese into the batter’s box following Beltran. Beltran was playing his first game in right field this spring. He had been limited to DH because of the flu and an arm issue.

“I was going to wink at him or do something, but he never looked at me,” said Pelfrey, who retired Beltran on flyouts in both of their faceoffs. “It’s definitely different facing him after being with him for so long. I know in his first AB I kind of left the ball in the middle. I’m just glad he popped it up.”

• Left-hander Garrett Olson, who had entered to start innings in his first two Grapefruit League appearances, this time was summoned by Collins with a runner on third and one out in relief of Pelfrey in the fifth. The reason: With Tim Byrdak opening the season on the DL with a torn meniscus in his left knee that required surgery today, Mets brass must evaluate the capableness of other southpaws in camp as lefty specialist.

“With him down, until he’s ready, that just means we’re going to have to step up and be ready,” Olson said. “I told [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] whatever they need me to do, I will make the adjustment. It’s just getting used to that getting up [in the bullpen] again.”

Olson, who may be the front runner, or at least co-front runner with Chuck James, for the left-handed bullpen role was inserted to face consecutive left-handed batters -- Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker. He walked Descalso. Then, after a successful double-steal that resulted in Tyler Greene swiping home, Olson retired Schumaker on a groundout to second. He completed the inning by coaxing a flyout to center from Beltran.

Olson has worked 44 games as a starting pitcher and 59 games in relief in the majors.

Maikel Cleto replaced Adam Wainwright for the Cardinals to open the fourth inning. Cleto was one of the seven players the Mets shipped out in the three-team trade that landed J.J. Putz and Sean Green in Flushing during the winter meetings in December 2008. Nearly on the two-year anniversary of that swap, Cleto was traded from Seattle to St. Louis for Brendan Ryan. Cleto, 22, made his major league debut with the Cardinals last June 2. He is projected to open this season in Triple-A.

Daniel Murphy went 2-for-4 (and wasn’t a factor in the Cardinals’ successful double-steal that went from catcher Lucas May to shortstop Omar Quintanilla and back to May too late to catch Greene at the plate.)

Initiated by Murphy’s leadoff walk against Cleto in the fourth, the Mets loaded the bases with none out. However, Lucas Duda’s shot to left field was corralled at the wall for a long sacrifice fly. May and Adam Loewen subsequently struck out looking. Duda was bidding for a grand slam for the second straight day.

• The Mets’ first two innings stalled with double plays, on grounders by Jason Bay and then by May, although May’s was hit very hard. Bay later doubled with a grounder down the third-base line and is now hitting .154 in Grapefruit League play.

• Infielder Ronny Cedeno is now day-to-day with knee tendinitis.

Scott Hairston (oblique) continues to appear likely to open the season on the disabled list. Hairston said he still is in the treatment phase and has not progressed to any baseball-type activity.