St. Louis Cardinals

Lynn feels fine after return to mound; Jay ready for games

Lance Lynn threw free and easy in a simulated game Wednesday morning, another good sign for the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting rotation.

Lynn, recovering from a left hip-flexor strain, hasn’t pitched in a game since March 8 against Miami when he left prematurely because of the injury.

But he threw all his pitches with vigor on the back field during his three-inning workout, which included facing incumbent center fielder Jon Jay, coming off left-wrist surgery.

“Everything felt good as it has for the last week or so,” said Lynn, who was 15-10 with a 2.74 ERA in 33 starts last year. “It was good to just get back out there and simulate innings, (getting) up and (sitting) down. We did some situations, and it was also good to have Jay in there working on some situation stuff, too. It was good for both of us.”

Lynn wasn’t sharp with his breaking pitches in the first inning, but commanded them better in the second and third innings and commanded both sides of the plate with his fastball.

“I treated it like I would a normal spring start,” Lynn said. “I know that I’m fine, I know that I’m healthy, so I wasn’t worried about anything. I just needed to get my pitches in. They’re ready to go. As the day went on, they got better. That’s a good thing to have, especially for me moving forward. If you want to work deep into games, you’ve got to have your stuff. Today, I started that process. I’m pretty much where I need to be.”

Lynn could start as early as Monday when the Cardinals face Boston in Fort Myers. He said he could have started Wednesday if the Cardinals hadn’t been idle.

“I would have been in a game today if we had one,” Lynn said. “This is the day I had to throw. That was the reason we were on the back field. There was no reason for the back field (except) it was the only thing I had to do. The Marlins wouldn’t let me throw for them.”

The Marlins, who share the Roger Dean Stadium facility with the Cardinals, played host to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.

Lynn said he enjoyed the challenge of facing the left-handed-hitting Jay. Lynn has been tormented by left-handers, who have compiled a .256 average, a .355 on-base percentage and a .409 slugging percentage against him in his career.

It’s the one phase of Lynn’s game that still needs to be polished.

“Lefties have been problems in my past,” Lynn said. “To get (Jay’s) feedback, as a teammate he’s going to be truthful. He’s a guy that’s got a pretty good eye, and he was swinging at some stuff that wasn’t in the zone. So it was a good feeling to have.”

Lynn intends to throw changeups to both lefties and righties with more regularity this season. In the past, Lynn has relied heavily on a four-seam, two-seam and cut fastballs.

“The purpose of spring right now is to get to where that changeup’s going to be a pitch, and a good one,” Lynn said. “Four pitches are better than three.”

Jay swings into action

Jay’s simulated game Wednesday was his second of the week. He also took his cuts Monday against Adam Wainwright.

Jay said he’s in a good spot as the season opener draws near, even though he has yet to participate in a Grapefruit League contest.

“I tried to do a little bit of everything, get me ready for games,” said the .295 lifetime hitter. “I’m feeling good out there. We’re moving along. I’m excited to get out there with my teammates. We’ll get together (Thursday) and come up with a plan. Friday will probably be the day.

“Obviously, I’ve been through a lot this offseason. Surgery and rehabbing, all that stuff. So it’s nice to finally get out there and take some swings off live pitching and get out there with my teammates. That’s what it’s all about. We’ve got plenty of time to get ready, but the good thing is my wrist is feeling good. We’ve just got to take it day by day.”

Jay said Lynn was nasty as usual.

“He threw everything for strikes,” he said. “He’s got more than one pitch now. That’s what we talked about. It’s going to be fun to watch him work with his new tools. It’s exciting out in center field. The league’s been used to him doing one thing, and he’s got some other weapons now, so it’s going to be nice.

“That changeup was filthy. Lance has taken that next step to solidify himself as a guy that everyone looks to. He’s a guy who’s always lived off his fastball. When you give a hitter another look, another pitch to think about and worry about, that’s an advantage to (Lynn).”

Peralta in groove

Jhonny Peralta, who set a franchise record for home runs by a shortstop last season with 21, was 0-for-13 to open the spring schedule.

But Peralta has posted four consecutive hits, including a homer Tuesday against Miami.

“We like homers,” Matheny said, adding that him and Peralta had talked in recent weeks about how close Peralta was to busting out. “He’s doing a great job. You could tell he was just a click off. He said that a few days ago, that he was right around the corner. Jhonny knows what he’s doing.”