JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -Kyle Lohse can stop pitching to college hitters, and the St. Louis Cardinals can rest easier about their rotation while awaiting the return of several injured starters.
The 29-year-old right-hander passed a physical Friday morning and threw a side session under the watchful eye of pitching coach Dave Duncan before finalizing a $4.25 million, one-year contract. Earlier in free agency he had been seeking a multiyear deal, and the reduced price and risk as he languished on the market made him an attractive addition for the Cardinals' wounded staff.
``We weren't comfortable with a multiyear deal and some of the things we were hearing,'' general manager John Mozeliak said. ``But as things got later into spring it started to be something that showed it might be an opportunity for us, and we decided to take a chance.''
Lohse, 9-12 with a 4.62 ERA last year, was beginning to wonder if he'd get a contract before the season started.
``There were some days that were kind of testing my patience,'' he said. ``Maybe that's not the right way to put it, but I was getting anxious to get into camp somewhere.
``It wasn't like I thought I was going to sit at home the whole year, it was just finding a good fit, and I think we found it.''
Lohse said he can't worry about being in the same situation next winter. The only free agent pitcher to get a big contract was Carlos Silva, who got $48 million for four years from the Mariners.
``I'm not going to sit here and start thinking about next year because we have this year to take care of,'' Lohse said. ``It was just a strange winter.''
Lohse has a career record of 63-74 with a 4.82 ERA and hasn't had a winning record since 2003, all blemishes on his resume. The Cardinals gave him a deal similar to that of Kip Wells, who got $4 million based on potential upside before going 7-17 with a 5.70 ERA and subsequently moving on to Colorado. They've had success with other pitchers with mediocre track records, such as Woody Williams and Jeff Suppan.
``It's just a matter of finding that consistency, which I think everybody strives to get to,'' Lohse said. ``The numbers aren't the greatest, but I've had some good times and bad as well.''
Mozeliak said Lohse has the stuff to be successful under the right circumstances, assessing him as a ``middle to top'' of the rotation pitcher in terms of talent. His durability also is a plus, with 30 or more starts in five of the last six seasons and 175 or more innings in five of the last seven.
``Looking at who's going to eat those innings, he's the perfect guy,'' Mozeliak said. ``Not only that, he has some upside and we really believe working with Dave Duncan and his staff he can be that much better.''
Lohse had been attempting to simulate the spring training experience by throwing to college hitters from Cal State-Fullerton and Cal State-Irvine, and had a 75-pitch batting practice session on Monday. He said he threw two simulated games ``just so I could be ready to not come out here and have to get too much rust off.''
Lohse threw for 15 minutes on Friday and said the plan calls for him to throw in a simulated game on Monday. The Cardinals plan on plugging him into a rotation that could be missing Matt Clement and Joel Pineiro at the start of the season and expects Mark Mulder and Chris Carpenter later in the year.
The rest of the rotation for now is Adam Wainwright (14-12), Braden Looper (12-12), Todd Wellemeyer (3-2) and either Brad Thompson (8-6) or Anthony Reyes (2-14). Wellemeyer and Thompson are swingmen who also filled in extensively last season.
The Cardinals are encouraged about Mulder, who has been targeted for May. Duncan said Clement ``turned the corner'' in his third batting practice session on Thursday and Pineiro resumed throwing on Friday after missing his last start due to a knot below his shoulder. Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young winner, could join the rotation in July.
``At some point during this year, we're going to have the deepest rotation of all time,'' Wainwright said. ``It's a good problem to have.''
Negotiations went quickly with Lohse, who first learned of the Cardinals' interest on Tuesday. That's the day the team shut down Pineiro for a few days.
``I just want to fit in here,'' he said. ``Once everyone gets healthy in the rotation, I think we'll have a pretty good staff.''

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