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06/30/08 11:47 PM ET

Mulder successful in return to Cardinals

Left-hander pitches one solid inning in relief against Mets

ST. LOUIS -- To say Mark Mulder's return to pitching in the Majors has been a long road would be an understatement.

Since 2006, Mulder has dealt with problems to his rotator cuff on his left arm and has only pitched sporadically. But all of that changed in the ninth inning, Monday night, against the Mets.

With the Cardinals up, 7-1, in the top of the ninth, manager Tony La Russa called on Mulder to make his first appearance with the Cardinals since Sept. 16, 2007. A sellout crowd cheered on Mulder, who completed the inning with ease.

"I was as excited as I've been in a long time," La Russa said. "The guy has worked so hard."

Before the game, La Russa said he would have preferred Mulder coming out of relief to open an inning. With the middle of the order leading off in the ninth, Mulder was presented a perfect opportunity to make his comeback.

Fernando Tatis grounded out to shortstop, then Endy Chavez hit a harmless bloop single. The prize of the inning came when Mulder struck out Ramon Castro, sending Busch Stadium into a frenzy. After Damion Easley hit another weak single, Jose Reyes flied out to right field.

Throughout the rehab process, Mulder has preached that it is not about velocity, but rather making pitches. Though he said he wasn't paying attention to the radar gun in right field, Mulder consistently hit the low-90s during the inning.

"I looked one time and it said 61," Mulder said. "That's the only pitch I actually saw. That's why I always turned the gun off in Oakland -- because it's never right. ... The hitters will let you know how good your velocity is."

Trying to downplay the outing, saying it was "just one outing, it's one inning," Mulder felt he performed well, but won't look ahead to his next outing. He is just thrilled to be back on the mound.

"You know what? I'm back pitching," Mulder said. "So, if I did this [pitching out of the bullpen] the rest of the year, I don't care. Just as long as I'm out there and doing a good job, I really don't care."

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.