PORT ST. LUCIE, FL (AP) The numbers indicated Jaime Garcia had a difficult outing against the New York Mets on Sunday.

Garcia actually felt pretty good about the whole thing.

The left-hander allowed eight runs and nine hits over four innings in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 13-3 loss, but he induced 12 grounders.

“We pitched better than all those runs and all those hits,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “(Garcia) made significant progress today. He made a lot better pitches.”

Garcia worked two scoreless innings before running into trouble in the third, fourth and fifth.

“Today I feel like I was making good pitches,” said Garcia, who was one of the majors’ top rookies when he went 13-8 with a 2.70 ERA last season. “I actually felt better the last two innings. I’m a ground ball pitcher and today I got ground balls.”

Scott Hairston homered twice and went 3 for 4 for the Mets, raising his spring average to .407. Hairston figures to get increased playing time in right field at the start of the season if Carlos Beltran is still unable to play due to his ongoing knee problems.

“(Hairston) hasn’t seemed to have any difficulties out there, and he’s certainly making a statement,” Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Mets left-hander Oliver Perez came on in relief in the fourth to face left-handed hitting Daniel Descalso with two outs and the bases empty. Perez, throwing from a lower arm slot, got Descalso to pop out to second baseman Luis Castillo to end the inning.

“(Perez) threw strikes,” Collins said. “That’s what we wanted him to do. He threw strikes, gave them a different look. Especially from that angle he’s throwing, if he can get the ball out there, he’s going to have some success.”

NOTES: Mets ace Johan Santana, recovering from his Sept. 14 surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder, said his rehab is on schedule. Santana is currently throwing from a distance of 60 to 70 feet three to four times a week. Collins termed Santana’s rehab is in Stage 2, where he will continue to throw on flat ground and build arm strength. Stage 3 is scheduled to begin in May when Collins estimates it will take six to eight weeks for Santana to become game ready. He is not expected back before the All-Star break. “We’re right on the right track and where we’re supposed to be,” Santana said. “It’s just a slow process and I’m just doing it with caution.” … Mets LHP Chris Capuano threw five scoreless innings in a minor league scrimmage. Capuano, who has thrown just five innings in Grapefruit League action, not including Sunday’s scrimmage or an earlier appearance against the University of Michigan, is in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation. … Catcher Ronny Paulino also played in the scrimmage, homering in his only at-bat, while second base candidates Daniel Murphy went 0 for 5 and Brad Emaus went 1 for 5 with a double.

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