Cards’ Eckstein eager for opener

Friday, March 25, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:09 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

JUPITER, Fla. — David Eckstein can hardly wait for his first regular-season game with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Eckstein had a hit and two walks Thursday to raise his spring average to .416. Rick Ankiel had his first hit since giving up on pitching and trying to make it as an outfielder and the Cardinals beat the Nationals 5-1.

“Spring training is a little too long. I’m ready to go,” said Eckstein, who has reached base 24 times in 36 at-bats. “I’ve been working real hard this spring, focusing on fouling off the tough pitches,” he said.

St. Louis signed Eckstein to a free-agent contract after Gold Glove shortstop Edgar Renteria signed with Boston during the offseason.

The 5-7, 165-pound Eckstein started two double plays against the Nationals.

Mark Mulder, another new addition to the Cardinals, pitched five scoreless innings allowing only four hits and striking out five.

“I never feel good in my first couple of starts,” Mulder said. “But then I reach a comfort zone. Now I’ll start focusing on how to approach the hitters.”

Mulder is expected to be the Cardinals’ opening day starter after being acquired from Oakland in an offseason trade. He went 12-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 18 starts for the Athletics before the All-Star break but finished 5-6 with a 6.13 ERA in 15 starts after the break.

“I couldn’t wait for spring training to start to put an end to those questions,” Mulder said of his late-season decline.

Right-hander Tomo Ohka gave up six hits and two runs for Washington. Luis Ayala pitched one perfecting inning.

Reserve catcher Edina Diaz, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen all had two hits for St. Louis.

Pinch-hitter Ankiel doubled in the eighth, much to the delight of the Jupiter crowd.

Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen, who allowed two runs in his last outing, pitched a perfect ninth, striking out two.

HALL OF FAME SURVEY: A survey this week on whether Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire should be elected to the Hall of Fame contacted 155 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America who will be eligible to vote in 2007, the first year McGwire appears on the ballot.

There were 65 voters (55.6 percent of those who expressed an opinion) who said they would select McGwire for election; 52 said they would not, and 38 were undecided.

There were 105 voters (80.8 percent of those who expressed an opinion) would said they would select Bonds for election; 25 said they would not, and 25 were undecided.

To gain entry into the Hall, an eligible player must be chosen by 75 percent of those who cast votes. This year, 516 votes were cast; 387 were necessary to gain election.

Each voter can select up to 10 players from the list of players, which is approved by a BBWAA committee. Voters may also return a blank ballot, which is counted in the total number of votes cast; unreturned ballots are not counted.

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