Fresh off the disabled list after a three-week stint and only days removed from a trade that sent him from Cleveland to St. Louis a day before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Justin Masterson was rusty.
The right-hander allowed five runs over six innings last Saturday in his Cardinals debut, raising his ERA to 5.63 in 20 starts this season.
"I don't think you necessarily expect it, but you know some [rust] is going to be there," said Masterson, who had been battling right knee soreness. "I didn't think it would be perfect, but I thought it would be a lot better than before."
Masterson pitched a scoreless sixth inning to finish the start, but the rust showed in his command as he walked three batters. It was his sixth straight outing of three or more walks and the 13th overall this season.
"We threw a couple rehab starts and they went decent," Masterson said. "But it is a little different down there making a rehab start than the adrenaline and everything of pitching in a big league start. I kept saying it was going to be better than we were before, but it's not going to be perfect."
There is hope for the Cardinals that Masterson's rust will have subsided after last Saturday when he returns to facing an American League squad, as he had previously played his entire career in the AL. Masterson allowed five runs over 5 2/3 innings earlier this season against the Orioles when he was pitching with the Indians.
On Friday, he will face off against Chris Tillman, who got better with each inning in his last outing when he lasted seven scoreless innings while allowing only four hits in a 1-0 victory over the Mariners.
"The fastball command came to me as the game went on," Tillman said after the outing. "I was kind of fighting all game to throw first-pitch strikes, but we were able to attack some pitches and not overthrow it."
The series opener will be the first of two returns to facing AL squads as John Lackey will pitch for the Cardinals on Saturday. Lackey, who made his Cardinals debut on Sunday, has already faced the Orioles three times this season with Boston.
"I think it's going to be an advantage to us compared to most Interleague games where we're going in blind as far as far as our scouting reports go," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "We'll be talking with Justin and John and [catcher] A.J. [Pierzynski] about their ideas about each of these hitters as we go into Baltimore. But it's a give and take when you start looking at the amount of repetitions that they've had against our particular pitchers."
Cardinals: DH will provide extra rest for players
As the Cardinals head into the weekend series with the Orioles, they begin their final stretch of Interleague Play as the three games mark the end of that portion of the team's schedule. While the Cardinals bolstered their bench to prepare for the designated-hitter spot earlier this season, there are no such plans this weekend with a short series. Matheny, though, would like to use the DH to get rest for players such as Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams.
"The first [thing you do] is maybe figure out how to get our guys a little bit of rest," Matheny said of having the DH. "We have a couple of outfielders who are capable of going out there and doing a great job for us, and still being able to keep Holliday's bat in the lineup is certainly going to be a consideration."
Orioles: Jimenez to get start off the DL on Saturday
Ubaldo Jimenez will make his first Major League start since July 5 when the Orioles host the Cardinals at Camden Yards on Saturday as the O's weekend rotation became more clear.
Manager Buck Showalter told reporters ahead of Thursday's game in Toronto that Jimenez is ready to go for Saturday, but he stopped short of announcing Sunday's starter.
Kevin Gausman or Bud Norris will be in line to take the mound for Sunday's series finale. Saturday would be Gausman's turn in the rotation, so his start will pushed back a day at least. Norris, meanwhile, would be pitching on regular rest should he get the ball.
• Four Orioles hitters have 20 or more plate appearances against Masterson, but the team as a whole has hit just .245 against him. Of players with 20 or more plate appearances, J.J. Hardy has had the most success, hitting .278.
• This weekend series will mark only the second trip for the Cardinals to Baltimore and just the third meeting between the two teams overall. The Cardinals lead the all-time series, 5-1.
• With his homer in the series finale against the Blue Jays on Thursday, Caleb Joseph has now homered in four straight games.
• The Orioles will welcome back 23 Orioles Hall of Famers on Friday as they celebrate their 60th anniversary season in Baltimore and wear 1954 replica throwback uniforms.
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.