ST. LOUIS -- Infielder Nick Punto will head to Florida when the Cardinals leave for a 10-game western road trip, and Punto could begin playing extended spring games as early as Monday.
Punto underwent surgery for a sports hernia in February and his progress has been consistently solid throughout his rehabilitation. He will work out at the Cardinals' Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla. When extended spring games begin on Monday, if Punto is ready to go, he will start playing in those games.
"That makes the most sense," Punto said of heading south. "If they're going to leave me behind, I might as well go."
The club still is not setting a date for Punto to return to the Major League roster, but beginning to play games would be a significant step in that direction.
"I'm just really pleased that it's this early in April and he's already out there doing baseball stuff," manager Tony La Russa said. "It's all to the good."
McClellan displays effective arsenal of pitches
ST. LOUIS -- Kyle McClellan's pitching line Tuesday made it clear why the Cardinals liked the right-hander as a starter. But how he did it may have said even more.
McClellan threw four different pitches effectively, showing off an arsenal that made him unusual as a reliever. In fact, by the end of the second inning, he had recorded at least one strikeout with each of his four pitches.
The Cards righty got Neal Walker chasing a changeup and Andrew McCutchen swinging at a curveball in the first inning, then Pedro Alvarez took a called third strike on a fastball to end the first. Ronny Cedeno swung and missed at a slider in the second, making it four K's on four different offerings.
"That's one thing that he's got," said catcher Gerald Laird. "I think every one of his pitches can be a strikeout pitch. You just go different ways. If you start out soft, he can get guys out late with his fastball. If you start guys off hard, he can get guys out late with his breaking stuff and his changeup."
Boggs, Greene await opportunities
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is looking for just the right situations to plug in a couple of his players.
Reliever Mitchell Boggs, projected to be one of the central members of the club's bullpen this year, has pitched once in five games. Infielder Tyler Greene is the only hitter on the roster who has not started a game yet. Opportunities for each will come soon, but not necessarily immediately.
Boggs got up in the bullpen on Tuesday night, and would have entered the game in the eighth if the pitcher's spot had come up in St. Louis' half of the seventh. Ideally, though, La Russa is looking for some more relatively low-leverage situations for Boggs before putting him back in a setup role. Boggs missed time in Spring Training due to a back strain, and did not finish the spring throwing especially well.
"It would be great to be able to pitch him two or three times just to be sure that he's getting work and getting sharper," La Russa said, "but if you have to, you send him out there. He has missed a lot of time. So it is what it is."
The right-hander turned in two strong innings in his only appearance this year before permitting two runs in his third frame -- an unusually long outing for a late-inning reliever.
"I felt I threw the ball really, really well," Boggs said. "That third inning, that's a lot more than I've done for a long time. I felt like I threw the ball well. My stuff was really, really good. I was pleased with it."
Greene will likely get a start this weekend in San Francisco, at second base against a lefty -- either Jonathan Sanchez on Friday or Barry Zito on Sunday.
"The only time I could have started him, and probably should have, was against [San Diego's Clayton] Richard in game two," La Russa said. "I probably will play him this weekend against San Francisco at second base."
Matt Holliday continued his progress Wednesday from an appendectomy last week. He continued running and swung a bat for the first time since the surgery.
Former Cardinals pitcher Mark Mulder will work as an analyst on ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" this season.
Saturday's game in San Francisco has been pushed back to a 9:05 p.m. CT start due to ceremonies in celebration of the Giants' 2010 World Series championship.
Minor League games begin on Thursday. Triple-A Memphis opens at home against Oklahoma City, Double-A Springfield plays at Frisco, Class A Palm Beach visits St. Lucie, and Class A Quad Cities is home against Beloit.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.