Gonzales impresses as Cardinals top Memphis

Lefty allows one unearned run against Triple-A affiliate; Holliday, Grichuk homer

Gonzales impresses as Cardinals top Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marco Gonzales left the Cardinals something to remember him by Friday night. The left-hander pitched 5 2/3 strong innings, while the Cardinals' bats put on an 11-hit, two-homer show in an 8-1 win over the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds in front of 9,827 at AutoZone Park.

Gonzales, the Cardinals' top pitching prospect, lost out to Carlos Martinez for the fifth spot in the big league rotation and will open the season with Memphis despite going 3-0 and giving up just two earned runs in 17 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. On Friday, Gonzales gave up three hits and one unearned run with four strikeouts while throwing 92 pitches.

The run came in the sixth on a groundout by Rafael Ortega. Gonzales then loaded the bases with his second walk of the inning (fourth overall). But veteran Randy Choate came in to fan Mike O'Neill to end the inning, and the Redbirds went quietly after that.

"The day may come where we decide to bring Marco up in a bullpen role, but injuries happen, and it's comforting to know we have guys like Marco stretched out here and ready to start if we need them," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "He gets it … he understands. We told him to just keep pitching well."

Memphis manager Mike Shildt, who will use Gonzales as part of a rotation with four left-handers (the others: Tim Cooney, Tyler Lyons and John Gast) said, "Marco has been sharp all spring, and tonight he had good command of the fastball and changeup and worked both sides of the plate well."

To which he added with a smile, "and he's on our side for now."

Gonzales showed no disappointment about his assignment to Memphis after the game.

"I was happy about tonight. I want to go out, get stronger and build up my arsenal every time I start, no matter where it is. I'm just worried about the next start. … And this [Memphis] team has a lot of talent. It's going to be fun."

The Cardinals used the extra-base hit to build a 3-0 lead on Memphis. After Redbirds starter Tim Cooney hit Matt Carpenter with a pitch to lead off the game, Matt Holliday launched a pitch out to left field with one out for his first home run of the spring.

In the fourth, the Cardinals added a run on doubles by Pete Kozma and Peter Bourjos.

Gonzales helped his cause with an RBI single off reliever Zach Petrick in the sixth, and Bourjos made it 6-1 with a two-run single in the seventh. Randal Grichuk delivered a two-run blast in the eighth off hard-throwing Sam Tuivailala.

Up next: The Cardinals open the regular season on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. CT in Chicago, sending Adam Wainwright to the mound against Jon Lester, the Cubs' big free-agent signing of the offseason. Watch the game on ESPN2.

Pete Wickham is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.