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Kyle Lohse on his outing against the Braves

The two pitchers taking the mound on Monday at Busch Stadium are hoping their performances from the spring will translate into better seasons than they experienced a year ago.

Pittsburgh right-hander Charlie Morton will oppose St. Louis righty Kyle Lohse as the NL Central foes begin a three-game series.

Morton, 27, is looking to put an ugly 2010 behind him. He made 17 starts for the Pirates last year, going 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA. Morton said he learned a lot from that rough season and because of that experience, as well as his personal high expectations, he's looking forward to beginning anew.

"Any opportunity I get, I want to make the best of it," Morton said. "I honestly can say that I did everything I could last year, but what I was doing just didn't work. I think we've worked on some things and made some adjustments."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is confident the youngster will significantly improve.

"Charlie pitched better than anybody in camp, and good for him," Hurdle said. "That's why the next step will be the more interesting step. The season will come and we'll see what that brings. But confidence has been built."

Opposing Morton is Lohse, who had a sold spring. More importantly, the 32-year-old finally feels healthy after being bothered by a forearm injury since May 2009. Although he had surgery on the forearm a year later and came back last season, he still didn't feel 100 percent.

Entering the season, however, he feels just that.

"It's been a while where I can honestly sit there, confidently knowing that I can make the pitches that I need to make for however long I'm out there," Lohse said. "Whether I go do it or not, that's one thing. But the mental state of knowing that I can do it, and that I did it all spring, helps."

Now that Lohse is healthy, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa expects a return of the 2008 version of Lohse, when he went 15-6.

"He's already proven to us when he's healthy he's a quality pitcher," La Russa said. "He's healthy, and we have to keep him healthy, and he'll be fine. Then we have to do the rest of the stuff, play defense and score some runs."

Cardinals: Holliday back with team, return still uncertain
• Two days after undergoing an appendectomy, outfielder Matt Holliday returned to Busch Stadium on Sunday morning, but he is still uncertain when he'll return to the field.

"What I was told initially was by [Monday] or Tuesday, we'd have a better read on what's ahead for Matt," La Russa said. "I'll get a better answer to that [Monday]."

Holliday, who declined to speak with reporters prior to the game, told La Russa he wasn't as sore Sunday as he was the previous day. Holliday could miss two to five weeks.

• Rookie infielder Daniel Descalso started at third and hit in the No. 9 spot of the order on Sunday, going 1-for-3. The 24-year-old, who played in a team-high 27 Spring Training games, said he's willing to do whatever the club asks of him.

"You want to be in there and play, but my role on this team is to be ready to go if somebody needs a spot start, or come off the bench and play defense," Descalso said. "That's my job here."

Pirates: McCutchen a late scratch Sunday
• Andrew McCutchen was a late scratch from the Pirates' lineup on on Sunday with stiffness in his neck. The soreness came from "diving on the cement out there," McCutchen said, alluding to the diving attempt he made in Saturday's game at Wrigley Field. McCutchen's status was questionable when he arrived at the stadium on Sunday morning, and after receiving treatment, he initially talked his way into the starting lineup. Hurdle made the change after McCutchen took batting practice.

• Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said the club has not yet decided whether lefty Scott Olsen (left shoulder inflammation) will need to make some Minor League rehab appearances before he is ready to rejoin the big league roster. Right now, Olsen is in Bradenton, Fla., where he is pitching in extended spring camp.

Worth noting
Completed in 2:03, Sunday's game against the Padres was the second-fastest in the six-year history of Busch Stadium, trailing only a 3-1 Cardinals victory in 1:54 over the Pirates on Sept. 9, 2006. ... Monday's game will be the first night game of the season at Busch Stadium. ... Pirates catcher Jason Jaramillo and outfielder Matt Diaz made their first starts of the season Sunday.

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