JUPITER, Fla. — St. Louis manager Tony La Russa wanted Rich Hill to throw more than the two innings the left-hander had given him in his first two outings of the spring.
Hill gave La Russa three on Thursday, but they were hardly a step forward.
Hill didn't do anything to improve his bid to become the Cardinals' fifth starter, allowing three earned runs on two hits and five walks in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
"Today he was cranking the ball all over the place," La Russa said after only 41 of Hill's 79 pitches found the strike zone.
A non-roster invitee, Hill spent a good portion of last season on Baltimore's disabled list with elbow and shoulder injuries while posting a 3-3 record with a 7.80 ERA in 14 games.
"He just wasn't commanding his fastball," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "We're close to the 20th of the month. That gives us 12 days. You look for guys to start improving their command about right now."
Chipper Jones delivered the biggest blow to Hill's afternoon. The 37-year-old switch hitter put what he called his first real-good right-handed swing of the spring on a 1-1 fastball in the third, sending it bouncing off the roof of the clubhouse beyond the left field wall.
"Those are still fun," Jones said. "It's like making a birdie on the 18th hole after shooting 99. To make birdie on the last hole keeps you coming back."
The only trouble Atlanta starter Tim Hudson ran into during his five innings came in the fourth when Colby Rasmus pulled a triple that wrapped around first base and ricocheted off the bullpen wall into shallow right field, scoring Felipe Lopez.
"It's nice to get into the fifth, flip the lineup over once," said Hudson, who allowed one earned run while striking out four. "It's starting to feel more like games — in-season stuff."
NOTES: Cardinals OF Matt Holliday still hasn't swung a bat since injuring his rib cage on March 10. La Russa said he hopes to have Holliday back in the lineup next week. "We've got to get him 100 percent, then wait a little longer," La Russa said.