PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) -The St. Louis Cardinals were awaiting results of an MRI on Juan Gonzalez's strained abdomen on Saturday, an injury that has marred his comeback attempt.
The test was done on Friday and was being evaluated by a specialist, team spokesman Brian Bartow said.
The 38-year-old Gonzalez, who has only one at-bat the last three years, missed his fifth straight game and did not make the trip Saturday for a game against the Mets. He had been listed as day-to-day two days earlier. Manager Tony La Russa said there had been no improvement.
``I do not think he was better this morning, and he's been resting and being treated,'' La Russa said after the Cardinals' 10-3 victory. ``So that's not a good sign.''
Gonzalez, a two-time AL MVP, is fast losing ground in competition for the fifth outfield spot to Rule 5 pickup Brian Barton due to his health. He felt a pull on his left side more than a week ago and has had difficulty running.
Gonzalez missed the last two seasons and had only one at-bat in 2005. He's hitting .308 in 26 at-bats with one home run and five RBIs after signing a minor league contract with the Cardinals.
Earlier in the week he was noncommittal about his willingness to begin the season at Triple-A Memphis. La Russa also has wondered aloud about the wisdom of giving a roster spot to a player who might land on the 15-day disabled list.
Barton was batting .350 after going 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs on Saturday. He would give the team a significant boost in speed, with three triples along with two home runs and eight RBIs in 40 spring at-bats.
Barton, who has only 87 at-bats at the Triple-A level, and Albert Pujols were tied for the team RBI lead. The Cardinals drafted him from the Cleveland Indians' organization in December.
``What he needs to do is he needs to do it for the next two weeks,'' La Russa said. ``That's when the tests increase.
``It doesn't happen a lot but it has happened where a guy will do this the first two weeks and not the second two weeks, but he's certainly gotten everybody's attention.''
Meanwhile, there were several developments on the injury-wracked pitching staff.
Kyle Lohse, signed to a one-year free agent contract on Friday, will throw a simulated game on Monday. If all goes well, Duncan said Lohse will make his first spring start next Saturday.
``That's why we're doing a simulated game, to see where he's at and let him get his feet on the ground,'' Duncan said. ``We'll see how he does, see if he's ready.''
Brad Thompson, who allowed Carlos Delgado's first spring homer in two innings of relief, will get his first spring start on Wednesday. Thompson is among those competing for the fifth starting spot.
Braden Looper, who has an 11.57 ERA in three spring starts, will get two extra days while working out difficulties in the bullpen. Duncan said Looper has been getting his cut fastball up, but said the problem was more mental than physical.
Matt Clement, who missed last season following shoulder surgery, will throw batting practice for the fourth time on Sunday and appears closer to making a start. Duncan was impressed with Clement's control and increased velocity.
``It surprised me he threw as well as he did,'' Duncan said. ``I was caught by surprise that everything was as sharp as it was.''
Joel Pineiro, who's had a pair of setbacks due to shoulder discomfort, played catch Saturday for the second straight day without any problems. It's almost certain that Pineiro will not be ready on opening day.
``I think you'd be jeopardizing him if you put him in that situation,'' Duncan said. ``If it takes a little time, it takes a little time.
``We don't want to send him out there when he's not fully ready to compete.''

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