KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Kyle McClellan got a confidence boost in his bid to make the Cardinals' rotation on Thursday.
Despite not having his best stuff, McClellan allowed three hits and a run in four innings in a 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
Of the three hits, two of them were infield singles. McClellan pitched in 68 games for the Cardinals last season, all of them out of the bullpen.
McClellan fell behind the hitters often on Thursday, but battled back to get outs.
"It was interesting," McClellan said. "I only had one pitch working for me today. I tried everything and just started throwing my sinker. I learned that I can struggle and get my way through it with the sinker."
McClellan has never started a major league game, but he wanted to stretch it out beyond his four innings.
"I could have gone at least one more," McClellan said. "I felt fine. I got into trouble a few times, but I think it shows I can compete. It makes you mentally tough and it shows that you can do it even when you aren't perfect."
McClellan said he relied on his sinker because nothing else was working. He fell behind early and often in the count and gave up a first-inning run on a Dan Uggla single. It was the only ball the Braves hit out of the infield off McClellan.
"I am not worried," McClellan said. "The sinker was working. My curveball, it will be there by the time we leave camp. I always have my sinker. If I can't depend on it, I know it's going to be a long day."
McClellan has allowed only one run in seven innings this spring. He is also learning to stretch himself out. Last season, he only had 10 appearances of two or more innings.
He said that he knows there is going to be a big difference if he joins the rotation. Being ready to pitch every day in relief meant a lot to him, but starting is his top priority.
"I am a very impatient type of guy," McClellan said. "I just want to get to the ballpark and pitch. I can adjust. It can be intense to know you might have to pitch every day, but I can start. I feel ready."
Derek Lowe started for the Braves and extended his spring training scoreless streak to nine innings. He struck out four and allowed two hits in four innings.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Lowe is coming around and pitching like the ace the Braves are looking for with three weeks left before they head north.
"I thought he looked great today," Gonzalez said. "He had great command and great stuff. He allowed two fly balls. When he goes four or five innings like that, you know he's headed in the right direction."
The Braves were without catcher Brian McCann, whose line drive on Wednesday struck Braves minor league manager Luis Salazar in the face and sent him to the hospital. McCann left the game immediately and only made a brief appearance in the Braves locker room on Thursday. Gonzalez expected McCann to be in the lineup on Friday.
Gonzalez said McCann was still shaken by what happened.
"I think he has handled it well," Gonzalez said. "He saw (Salazar's) family and I know (McCann) will be OK."
There were no further updates on Salazar's condition, but a Braves spokesman said he was conscious and breathing and that his family was with him at the Orlando Regional Medical Center.
Gonzalez hadn't spoken to Salazar after Thursday's game, but said he and the team have Salazar in their thoughts.
"I know he is laying in that hospital just waiting to get back into uniform," Gonzalez said.
Notes: The Braves made 14 roster moves on Thursday. RHP Erik Cordier, LHP Lee Hyde, and LHP Jose Ortegano were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett, and RHP Randall Delgado was optioned to Double-A Mississippi. Ten players were assigned to minor league camp including: RHP Michael Broadway, RHP Jay Sborz, RHP Julio Teheran, RHP Arodys Vizcaino, LHP Brett Oberholtzer, C Christian Bethancourt, C Braeden Schlehuber, C Jesus Sucre, IF Tyler Pastornicky and OF Mycal Jones. ... 3B Chipper Jones had the day off. Gonzalez said he just wanted to give Jones a rest. Jones is recovering from a torn ACL and is batting .269 in nine games this spring.