It should be quite interesting when St. Louis Cardinals starter Mark Mulder takes the mound against Phillies starter J.A. Happ tonight, something Mulder hasn't done in almost a year.
Although Mulder has made two appearances this year coming out of the bullpen, his endurance and accuracy will see its biggest test in 2008. His 2008 campaign has started off on a rocky road, as he carries a 13.50 ERA into tonight's start.
That said, the ESPN nationally televised game will allow Mulder to showcase his improvement to all of Cardinal nation, and others throughout the country.
In his prime, he was one of the finest pitchers in the game, winning a Cy Young award for his outstanding performance. Lately however, Mulder has been plagued by the injury bug, and has yet to get on track in St. Louis.
In such a hotly contested NL Central, now is the time for Mulder to make his piece of the puzzle fit. As a Cardinals fan, I've waited long enough to see this former All-Star flourish.
If Mulder can do his part, the hitting should come around as well. But first it is all about location and hitting his spots. Too many times throughout my life in St. Louis, I have seen him mis-locate pitches that in turn end up in the seats.
Being his first start, he doesn't need overpowering stuff, and he doesn't need to pitch a perfect game. If the Cards can get a solid five innings from Mulder, without too much damage, the bats should do their part to keep the Redbirds in the game, especially against the inexperienced Happ.
With the Cubs and Brewers making huge acquisitions this week, the Cardinals need to get a series win against a tough first place ball club to show the rest of the NL Central that they aren't ready to back down.
It all starts today for Mulder: the road to recovery will hopefully come full circle with an incredible start.