Notes: Outing for Looper is a 'battle'

Notes: Outing a 'battle' for Looper

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It's not that Braden Looper had never given up four runs in an inning before. It's just that in his old job, when you give up four runs, you don't come back out for the next inning.

In Looper's new gig, however, a bad first inning doesn't mean the end of the day. Looper's first rocky start came Saturday against the Braves, as he allowed four runs on seven hits in three innings.

"You don't want it to happen, but it's one of those things that you just try to learn whatever you can from it," Looper said. "Today, I did not make the adjustment as well as I needed to. When I went out there in the first inning, I didn't have my cutter the way I did all spring. And I could not make the adjustment."

Looper got in trouble again in the second, with a single, a walk and an infield hit loading the bases. But he struck out Ryan Langerhans to end the threat, and then pitched a relatively uneventful third inning.

It took Looper 65 pitches to get through three innings, and he felt every one of them.

"It was just a battle," he said. "It was a battle the whole time I was out there today. Everything was work. I was having to make things happen. I just kept trying to pound the strike zone and get the ball down as best as I could. But at times, I just left the ball up a little bit. When you do that against a big-league team, they're going to hurt you."

E-Gone: Infielder Edgar Gonzalez has been one of the most impressive hitters in camp, smacking three home runs and driving in eight runs despite receiving just 18 at-bats. Gonzalez came to Spring Training with a reputation as a polished hitter, and he's shown nothing to the contrary thus far.

On Friday night, he went deep off Braves lefty Mike Gonzalez, who has allowed just five long balls in 147 1/3 regular-season innings the past three years. He followed up on Saturday with a single and two runs driven in.

"He's a real good hitter," said hitting coach Hal McRae. "He's a line-drive type [of] guy with occasional pop, and a good idea about hitting. I had heard he could hit. I didn't pay that much attention, but he's proving now that he can swing the bat well."

Gonzalez remains a work in progress as a defender at second base. He's likely ticketed for Triple-A Memphis, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said that he could be seen in St. Louis before the year is out.

Leave it to Eck: David Eckstein said on Friday night that it was up to him whether he played on Saturday or not. For anyone who knows Eckstein, that meant it was a slam dunk the shortstop would be in the lineup.

Eckstein took only two at-bats before leaving the game against the Braves, but he played, and he continues to have no setbacks from the strained oblique that bothered him early in camp.

Bits and pieces: Skip Schumaker was back in the lineup after missing five games due to a sprained ankle. ... The Cardinals and Braves donned green caps Saturday in honor of St. Patrick's Day.

Weather report: It's looking like a spectacular day in Jupiter on Sunday. The forecast calls for a first-pitch temperature of 71 degrees, no clouds and a 10 percent chance of rain. The winds could kick up near 20 mph.

Coming up: The Cardinals head home following Saturday's game for a Sunday afternoon contest against the Mets at Roger Dean Stadium. Kip Wells will take the mound for St. Louis in the Cards' last game before their only off-day of the spring. First pitch is set for 12:05 p.m. CT, and the game will be carried on KSDK TV-5 and MLB.TV.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.