Masterson looks good in first relief outing

Masterson looks good in first relief outing

MILWAUKEE -- While the Cardinals are done giving Justin Masterson a look in the rotation, the organization remains interested to see if the Trade Deadline acquisition can pitch himself into a more defined relief role for these final weeks of the season. Friday's first impression went well.

Masterson retired the Brewers in order on 20 pitches (12 strikes) in the eighth inning by inducing two groundouts and striking out Jean Segura. The ground-ball outs are always a positive indicator for Masterson, who relies heavily on his sinker. Encouraging, too, was that he didn't walk a batter. In his six starts with the Cardinals, Masterson had walked 11 in 27 1/3 innings.

"I thought it was great," Masterson said of his first relief appearance this season. "I kept my hips back a little bit, which seemed to help. It was a position I had gotten out of. I set them back in a good spot, and I think it helped out to have everything moving in the right direction. I thought it was a good step being able to come out of the bullpen. I warmed up quickly. It was a success."

Masterson had last pitched on Aug. 30, when he was chased by the Cubs after allowing five runs on six hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings. The Cardinals have since let Michael Wacha take Masterson's rotation spot. Masterson moved to the 'pen without an obvious fit, but manager Mike Matheny wanted to first find some less-pressurized situations for Masterson, who has been working to simplify his mechanics.

What intrigues the Cardinals is the potential for Masterson to be as Seth Maness has been -- a reliever who is tough on right-handed batters and has the propensity to get a ground ball. Whether there is enough time left in the season for Masterson to prove himself valuable in such spots is Matheny's concern.

"If we can get Justin to be a guy who comes in and pounds the zone, especially against a right-handed-heavy lineup, and possibly get us a double-play ball, that could be very valuable," Matheny said. "It looked short and simple. I liked how he got to 3-2 and kept pounding the zone. That was something we saw a couple of times, where he'd yank one out of the zone. It looked like he was trusting what he was doing."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.