KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — Joe Kelly remembered his last game appearance, when there was a lot more had stake.
Pitching for the first time since the NL championship series, Kelly opened his bid for a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals' starting rotation with two hitless innings in Friday's 8-8 tie against the Houston Astros.
"There were no people calling me names out there today," Kelly said. "Warming up today in the bullpen, we had Cardinal fans down there, cheering you on, instead of people using derogatory terms and just screaming out hate and blasphemy towards you."
Among three candidates to replace the injured Chris Carpenter in the Cardinals' rotation, Kelly walked one hitter in each inning. He's competing with Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal, and was the last of the three to pitch in an exhibition game.
"For the past three days I've been reminded by everyone in the clubhouse: 'Are you ever going to pitch?'" Kelly said. "I think it made me even more anxious to get out here. I'm one of the last guys to even throw, but it was good to get out there.
"I'm not too happy about my walks. I felt maybe a tad rusty, but I went out there and got my ground balls. That's part of my game and that's what I try to do."
Kelly, a 24-year-old right-hander, was 5-7 with a 3.53 in 16 starts and eight relief appearances as a rookie last year.
"Everyone, of course, wants to start in the big leagues," he said. "That's ultimately what my goal is to do, so I guess that's my preference. I'm happy I'm even given a chance to get that role."
Adron Chambers, Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma had two hits and drove in two runs each for the Cardinals, who have won five straight.
Chris Carter homered for the Astros, a fifth-inning drive off closer Jason Motte. Brandon Barnes and Brandon Lair also homered for Houston.
"I'm excited to have this opportunity here, either to play first base or outfield or DH, whatever I can do to just play every day," said Carter, who hit 16 home runs in 67 games for Oakland last season.
Carter is among at least eight Astros outfielders competing for starting spots.
"That's why we're giving everybody an equal number of at-bats," manager Bo Porter said. "We want to give everybody an opportunity throughout the first three weeks."
Houston starter Bud Norris struck out one and walked one in three innings, allowing Descalso's two-run single in the second.
With Houston trailing by two runs in the ninth, Brandon Laird homered off Victor Marte leading off, his second home run in two days. Rene Garcia singled with one out and, after a throwing error by shortstop Ryan Jackson, pinch-runner Delino DeShields scored on Marte's wild pitch.
NOTES: Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was not with the team because he has flulike symptoms. ... Jose Veras, Houston's likely closer, pitched a 1-2-3 fourth with a pair of called strikeouts in his final appearance before joining the Dominican Republic for the World Baseball Classic.