JUPITER, Fla. -- It seems that Ray King is saving up his appearances for the regular season. The Cardinals' usually durable left-hander pitched in only his second game of the spring on Friday, returning to the mound after missing about a week with soreness near his shoulder.

King pitched a scoreless sixth inning against the meatier part of Florida's order, allowing a hit and striking out one -- that one being Miguel Cabrera. Carlos Delgado singled solidly to right field against King, and Mike Lowell reached on an error by third baseman Hector Luna.

Both King and manager Tony La Russa were pleased with the workhorse southpaw's stuff, particularly his fastball -- though that's the pitch that Delgado laced into the outfield.

"I hadn't been on the mound facing hitters in about a week, so the main thing was getting out, letting everything go," King said. "Today felt pretty good. The sinker was back where I want it. When I've got the sinker sinking, I get the groundballs."

King is expected to pitch again on Sunday, and he's hoping to go in back-to-back games for the first time this spring on Wednesday and Thursday.

"Everything feels good now, and I'm ready to go for about 80 (games)," he said. "I feel good. I threw [in] the bullpen the other day and I threw a lot more then. Everything is back to normal."

King has topped 75 appearances in each of the past four seasons.

Missed opportunity: La Russa has been one of Mark McGwire's most vocal supporters since Jose Canseco accused McGwire of steroid use in Canseco's book, Juiced. However, La Russa said Friday that he would have liked McGwire to speak more strongly in his testimony to a congressional panel on Thursday. McGwire was offered the opportunity to deny that he had ever used steroids, and he did not accept the offer.

"I thought it was a missed opportunity to explain that if you use substances like creatine and over-the-counter stuff that's not illegal, you can get the benefits of a hardcore weight training program," said La Russa. "And then you add the nutrition, with protein shakes and cutting out the fats and the fried foods. And that was never discussed. I really thought it was a chance for somebody to stand up and say, 'Wait a minute. You can get bigger and stronger doing this legally.' And I didn't hear that."

La Russa said he felt McGwire was "overcoached" before the hearings in Washington.


Sanders update: Reggie Sanders is recuperating from the appendectomy he underwent on Thursday night, and the team is still not willing to venture any serious guesses about how long the outfielder might be sidelined. However, there was optimism in camp on Friday due to the relatively minor nature of the procedure.

"Whatever discomfort he's going through with that pain in his stomach will be minor compared to the agitation he'll get when he comes back in the clubhouse," La Russa cracked. "Bill Parcells wrote something (on a bulletin board) about one of his players coming back in nine days, and our players are gonna be really hard on him if he's not back playing in nine."

Mulder makes progress: Mark Mulder turned in his best start of the Grapefruit League season against the Marlins on Friday afternoon. He made it through five innings for the second time in a row, throwing 44 strikes out of 64 pitches.

"I felt great," said Mulder. "I had a good sinker, a lot of groundballs. When I'm getting the groundballs and I really have that sinker going, everything kind of builds off of that."

Mulder gave up a run on five hits, struck out two and didn't issue a walk. The left-hander is the only St. Louis pitcher to go five innings in a game this spring, and he has done it twice.

"I thought he was very impressive," La Russa said.

Ankiel in the outfield: Rick Ankiel continues to be the most scrutinized player to appear in minor league games for the Cards. He made his first game appearance in the outfield on Friday, playing right field for Class A Quad Cities.

"I think that will be the easy part," he said of outfield defense. "The tough part will be going out and being consistent at the plate."

In quite a contrast to his game experience, during batting practice Ankiel swung with a couple of the game's biggest stars: Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker. He has shown prodigious power in his swings in BP.

"It's a little tough to keep up with those guys, but it's a great experience for me to get in there," he said.

Coming up: Jeff Suppan takes the mound against the Dodgers at Roger Dean Stadium at 12:05 p.m. CT on Saturday. Sunday is a split-squad day for the Cards, with Chris Carpenter pitching against the Tigers in Lakeland and Anthony Reyes facing the Braves in Orlando.