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'New team, new country': Mikolas stays positive

Righty touched for 6 ER in first MLB game after playing 3 seasons in Japan
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

JUPITER, Fla. -- Miles Mikolas didn't know exactly what to expect, either. The Cardinals imported their priciest free-agent splash this winter, and sent him to the mound bubble-wrapped in some mystery after three seasons spent pitching in Japan. Their first in-person, in-game look at Mikolas came Sunday, when Mikolas struggled in his spring debut against the Astros.

"New team, new country," Mikolas said. "I wanted to get some work in. I guess you can't get your work in if you go three-up, three-down."

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Miles Mikolas didn't know exactly what to expect, either. The Cardinals imported their priciest free-agent splash this winter, and sent him to the mound bubble-wrapped in some mystery after three seasons spent pitching in Japan. Their first in-person, in-game look at Mikolas came Sunday, when Mikolas struggled in his spring debut against the Astros.

"New team, new country," Mikolas said. "I wanted to get some work in. I guess you can't get your work in if you go three-up, three-down."

View Full Game Coverage

It was a bright-side take on an initial outing Mikolas would rather forget. The righty's first domestic appearance since 2014 came in front of family and friends in his hometown. But he allowed six earned runs on seven hits over 1 2/3 innings, throwing 51 pitches (29 strikes) along the way. The Cardinals lost, 7-3.

If nothing else, Sunday provided an on-field glimpse of a pitcher the Cardinals had only seen previously on video and in bullpens. Mikolas threw four pitches: a four-seam fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His fastball sat between 93 and 94 mph, maxing at 96 mph. He looks forward to refining his breaking-ball command, said Mikolas, who projects early in camp as the club's fourth starter.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"It was good to get my feet wet, see those guys in the box and have something to build off of," said Mikolas. "I tried to shake off more of the rust in the bullpen, but sometimes you can't shake all of it off out there. Getting used to the elevated level of play, and maybe trying to impress. Everything will translate, everything will come around and I'll be ready my next time out."

More debuts and returns
Tommy Pham homered in his spring debut, sending a solo shot over the left-center-field wall in the fourth. Yadier Molina homered five pitches later to give the Cardinals their first back-to-back shots of the spring.

Video: HOU@STL: Pham, Molina crush back-to-back home runs

Dexter Fowler made his spring debut, going 0-for-2 from the leadoff spot. Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter (back) are the club's last two projected starters yet to play this spring.

Jason Motte threw a scoreless inning in his first appearance in a Cardinals uniform since 2014. The former closer, now 35, is back in camp on a Minor League deal.

Video: HOU@STL: Motte strands the bases loaded in the 8th

• Sunday marked an emotional return to the mound for right-handed prospect Daniel Poncedeleon, who hadn't pitched since being struck in the head with a line drive last May. Poncedeleon needed emergency brain surgery, and three months of rehab before being cleared for baseball activities last August. Instead of returning to Triple-A Memphis, Poncedeleon stayed at the Cardinals rehab facility in Florida, where he built up strength throughout the winter. He threw two innings on Sunday, and is expected to begin the year in Triple-A.

Video: HOU@STL: Poncedeleon fans two in return from injury

"This is all icing on the cake for me," said Ramon Poncedeleon, Daniel's father, who flew in from California to witness his son's return to the mound. "I'm just so happy to have my son back. This is heaven for me."

Injury update
Second baseman Max Schrock has yet to make his Cardinals debut because he's nursing an oblique injury, manager Mike Matheny revealed Sunday. Matheny said Schrock suffered the injury, which is believed to be minor, on the first day of camp.

Acquired in the trade that sent Stephen Piscotty to Oakland this winter, Schrock, 23, is considered one of the best pure hitting prospects in the Cardinals' system. He's not expected to be limited for long.

Video: Top Prospects: Max Schrock, 2B, Cardinals

Lining up
The Cardinals revealed their pitching plans through Friday, when Carlos Martinez will make his second start of the spring, against the Red Sox.

Adam Wainwright's spring debut will come a day earlier, Thursday against the Twins.

Michael Wacha's spring debut is slated for Monday in Fort Myers, against the Twins. Luke Weaver will also make the cross-state trip to start Tuesday against the Red Sox. Jack Flaherty starts Wednesday against the Orioles.

Cecil gets going
For the first time this spring, Brett Cecil was slated to throw a bullpen Sunday. The left-handed reliever's schedule has been pushed back after he reported to camp late due to a family matter.

Next up
The Cardinals travel across the state Monday for a three-day road trip, their only overnight set of the spring, with Wacha facing the Twins at 12:05 p.m. CT. Dakota Hudson, the club's No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, will also pitch for the first time in 2018.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

St. Louis Cardinals, Miles Mikolas