Lance Lynn was a revelation for the St. Louis Cardinals for most of last year, and he feels he's much more prepared in 2013.
He's certainly a lot lighter.
The trimmed-down right-hander looks to begin proving his first full season in the majors wasn't a fluke, as he tries to lead the Cardinals to a second straight victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the finale of this three-game set Wednesday night.
Lynn finished fourth in the NL in wins last season, going 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA while helping St. Louis reach the playoffs via the wild card. Despite being an All-Star, he compiled a 7.31 ERA over a six-start stretch from July 27-Aug. 24 and was demoted to the bullpen for two weeks.
That may have been a big reason why manager Mike Matheny opted to mostly use Lynn as a reliever during the postseason, and he went 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA in six games - two starts.
Lynn is starting 2013 looking to remain in the rotation, and he shed 40 pounds in an effort to do so.
Listed at 240 pounds, Lynn struggled through his first five starts of spring training, going 2-3 while giving up 14 runs in 17 2-3 innings. However, he concluded the preseason schedule by yielding two hits in six shutout innings against Miami on Thursday.
"I thought he got better every single start," Matheny told the team's official website. "He's got a little edge now to him, and a lot of that comes from everybody second-guessing his offseason work habits. Good. I hope he carries it for a long time."
Lynn beat the Diamondbacks on the road in his only start against them May 7, tossing five scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and four walks in a 9-6 victory.
A similar performance should be enough for the Cardinals to take this series after Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Pete Kozma connected for one homer each in Tuesday's 6-1 victory. St. Louis mustered five hits in a season-opening 6-2 defeat a day earlier.
Holliday, who has driven in three runs in this series, is hitting .326 with five homers and 17 RBIs over his last 22 games at Chase Field.
Brandon McCarthy is slated to take the mound for the Diamondbacks, and that may be seen as an accomplishment on its own after experiencing a major scare with Oakland.
The veteran right-hander was hit in the right side of the head by a line drive off the bat of the Los Angeles Angels' Erick Aybar on Sept. 5, sustaining an epidural hemorrhage, brain contusion and skull fracture. McCarthy underwent a two-hour surgery, and the A's medical staff warned that his situation was "life threatening."
While he's since been cleared to play, McCarthy's health issues stretch beyond that incident. He's battled arm trouble in each of the past six seasons, and a recurring right shoulder strain landed him on the disabled list twice last year.
He finished with an 8-6 record and 3.24 ERA in 18 starts, and Arizona was encouraged enough to sign him to a two-year, $15.5 million free-agent contract over the winter.
McCarthy is facing St. Louis for the first time after he spent his first seven seasons in the AL.
Miguel Montero is 11 for 27 with two homers and six RBIs over his last eight meetings with the Cardinals, and he's 3 for 6 while plating two runs in this series. The catcher had two of Arizona's three hits Tuesday, with one leaving the park.