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Lynn finds pre-surgery form -- or better

Coming off TJ surgery, righty using secondary pitches more wisely
Special to MLB.com

MILWAUKEE -- Entering the season, questions surrounded the Cardinals' starting rotation, a majority of which had something to prove.

Could Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha bounce back from down seasons and return to form? What could St. Louis expect from Lance Lynn coming off a missed season following Tommy John surgery?

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MILWAUKEE -- Entering the season, questions surrounded the Cardinals' starting rotation, a majority of which had something to prove.

Could Adam Wainwright, Mike Leake and Michael Wacha bounce back from down seasons and return to form? What could St. Louis expect from Lance Lynn coming off a missed season following Tommy John surgery?

View Full Game Coverage

While the season is merely three weeks old, early signs are encouraging, with Leake and Wacha off to good starts and Wainwright displaying strong stuff in his most recent outing.

Then there's Lynn, who tossed six strong innings Saturday, allowing just one run with seven strikeouts in a 4-1 victory over the Brewers. He continues to show no signs of rust after sitting out all of last year.

"He's a horse for us," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "He looks like he never missed a season. He actually looks better in the fact that he's using some of his other pitches a little more wisely. He has good life when he needs it.

Tweet from @Cardinals: Final line for Lance Lynn: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 96 pitches (56 strikes). #STLCardsLynn's early season ERA: 2.70. pic.twitter.com/n30w3XVGxT

"He's starting to develop that knack that a lot of veteran pitchers have that when their backs are against the wall, they start to make better pitches."

Lynn agreed with Matheny's assessment of potentially pitching better after recovering from Tommy John in the sense that he feels healthy and strong.

"There's a fine line between the two," Lynn said, referring to being better than before the injury. "I have confidence that I'm healthy again and I can trust myself. But when it's all said and done, I trust my stuff. I live and die with what I live and die with. I'm not scared of anything when it comes to all my pitches.

Video: STL@MIL: Cardinals stop Broxton from stealing home

"It's a weird thing. I've gotten back to who I am the last two starts. It feels good. I just need to keep rolling."

After limiting the Cubs to two runs over 5 1/3 innings in his first start, Lynn surrendered four runs in five innings in a loss to Washington. But he has been good since, pitching seven scoreless innings in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on April 17 before limiting the Brewers to just one run over six innings Saturday.

The only time the Brewers really threatened against Lynn was in the first inning, but they were aided by ground balls that either died in the infield or simply found holes.

Jonathan Villar reached on an infield single and moved to second when Lynn walked Eric Thames. Travis Shaw then sneaked a ground ball into left field that turned into a run-scoring double. Lynn was able to strand Thames and Shaw by striking out Domingo Santana and getting Jett Bandy to ground out weakly to shortstop.

"That was big," Matheny said. "It could have been a really big inning. To get out of there with just the one [run] was game-changing, even early. Then he found his groove with his fastball and made really good pitches after that and did a good job getting us through six."

St. Louis will need its rotation to continue to be a strength as the season wears on, and Lynn performing like the pitcher he was prior to his elbow injury would provide a major lift.

"That's what I felt like going into the year was going to happen," Lynn said. "I had the one start in Washington that didn't go my way. A few pitches just hurt me. I feel confident and excited. I feel strong. It has been a while since I've felt like that. I'm pumped about that."

Andrew Gruman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Milwaukee.

St. Louis Cardinals, Lance Lynn