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Rosenthal presses in effort to earn rotation spot

JUPITER, Fla. -- The first candidate in the Cardinals' three-way competition for the fifth spot in the rotation took the mound on Saturday and looked as if he may have been trying a bit too hard to impress.

Given the chance to make the start, Trevor Rosenthal endured a 46-pitch, two-inning spring debut in which he gave up four runs on five hits and a pair of walks. He admitted afterward that the anticipation of making his first game appearance since last October played a role in his inability to maintain an ideal tempo.

"As a starter, you definitely have to command the zone," Rosenthal said. "That's something that got away a little bit in the second inning. Like I said, just trying to do a little bit too much, be a little bit too fine. I just need to go out there and attack the hitters a little bit better and get those first-pitch outs and first-pitch swings, instead of falling behind in the count."

Rosenthal threw 22 pitches (18 strikes) in the first inning and allowed three hard-hit base knocks. His command waned in the second inning, when only 10 of his 24 pitches were strikes.

"He was trying to put a little extra on it when he didn't need to," manager Mike Matheny said. "He was talking about how good he feels and that first time out, he was anxious. He got out there early [to warm up] and threw a lot of pitches in the 'pen. I was trying to hold him back but he was raring, ready to go. I think he was trying to put a little more on it than he needed to do."

Rosenthal is jockeying for a rotation spot against Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller, both of whom are expected to make their first Grapefruit League appearances next week. Miller was slated to start Sunday's game until shoulder soreness briefly interrupted his throwing program. As a result, Miller's first outing likely won't come until after Kelly takes the mound.

The Cardinals are looking past mere results in their evaluations of the three young pitchers, and how Rosenthal adjusts his tempo when he takes the mound next will carry some significance in the team's assessment.

"It's been a while since I've been able to get that start, so the routine was a little bit different," Rosenthal said. "I had to make some adjustments there to find out what works for me and then get comfortable. It's a challenge, and I'm going to keep looking to improve."