The St. Louis Cardinals saved their top offseason acquisition for their home opener.
“It’s going to be fun,” said Mulder, whom the Cardinals acquired in a December trade with Oakland. “The place is going to be packed with red and white and it’s going to be a good time.”
Mulder led the major leagues with 17 victories in mid-July last season before finishing 0-4 with a 7.27 ERA in his last seven starts. But Cardinals manager Tony La Russa doesn’t feel the left-hander should be carrying extra pressure into his first career start at Busch Stadium.
“Does he have anything to prove?” La Russa said. “He has the same thing to prove that Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan have to prove, that they can take the ball every fifth day and help us try to win a pennant.”
Mulder said he’s not worried about switching leagues and facing new hitters because a strong spring bolstered his confidence.
“I feel great going into the season,” Mulder said. “I’ve never had great springs but I’ve felt each one of my starts this year got a little bit better, and I’m confident going out there.”
La Russa has special fondness for a team’s home opener, especially in St. Louis.
“I don’t think you can ever take an edge off a home opener the way they do it in St. Louis,” La Russa said. “They’re all special and this is the last time it’s going to be here, so it adds a little something extra.”
The Cardinals will move across the street to a new 46,000-seat Busch Stadium in 2006.
Reggie Sanders homered for the second straight game, while right-hander Marquis allowed one run and nine hits over six innings.
The Phillies, meanwhile, are coming off back-to-back losses to the Washington Nationals. In Thursday’s 5-4, 10-inning defeat, Placido Polanco had a go-ahead RBI single in the seventh, but reliever Tim Worrell ended up blowing a lead for the second straight game. Rheal Cormier then gave up the game-winning homer to Jose Vidro in the 10th inning.
In Wednesday’s 7-3 loss, Worrell allowed four runs and retired just one batter.
“The bullpen is the strength of our club. It’s just a bump in the road,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “I have all the confidence in the world in our bullpen.”