Albert Pujols was back in a big way Saturday.
The Cardinals superstar made his first appearance since a back problem held him back for the better part of a week. He was hitless for the spring coming into the contest against the Astros. But he turned that around quickly. Pujols laced a couple of very solid hits and had a walk in three plate appearances to demonstrate that he's healthy once again.
St. Louis starters have fared pretty well in their second spring training appearance. But ace Chris Carpenter seemed to have trouble harnessing his curveball. Houston batters made a lot of solid contact. But when his curve was working, Carp made some of them look pretty foolish with five strikeouts in three innings pitched.
Julio Lugo continues to show his value, despite the opinion of some that there isn't room for him on the roster following the arrival of Felipe Lopez. In the sixth inning, he's 2-for-3 with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
Joe Mather stung a ball in the fifth and split time between the outfield and first base in the game. I still think Mather, hitting .318, has a shot at making the major league club. If the Cardinals keep Lopez and Lugo -- and I can't imagine they won't -- then Mather probably has more value on a day-to-day basis than Tyler Greene.
Rich Hill relived Saturday and gave up only one run -- which was a fly ball that was misplayed into a triple. But he seems like a long way away from being ready to be a major league starter. His mechanics were absolutely terrible. With the way he was flailing around and constantly changing his motion, it was amazing he was ever able to get the ball over the plate. I wonder if pitching coach Dave Duncan will have enough time to get Hill straightened out before the spring ends...