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By Kary Booher

JUPITER, Fla. – Mike Matheny urged caution in eyeing spring training stats of reliever Seth Maness, but the St. Louis Cardinals manager made clear Tuesday that he wants crisper outings.

Maness became a topic in Matheny's post-game session after the reliever's earned run average ballooned to 9.28 in a 6-5 loss to the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium.

The Marlins scored three runs (all earned) on four hits off the right-hander in the seventh inning.

"We also have to take into consideration that he's worked with different catchers quite a few times now," Matheny said. "That's not a great excuse. Seth needs to take control of it regardless of who's behind the plate."

"Would we like to see him have more confidence? The answer is yes. Would we like to see better results? Yes. Would we like to win spring training games? Yes."

Maness emerged as a key factor in St. Louis' run to the National League pennant last season. Not a power pitcher, he made 66 appearances and compiled a low, 2.32 ERA. Notably, his sinker induced ground-ball outs.

Matheny also emphasized that Maness this time last year was being groomed as a Triple-A starting pitcher and, thus, this is a different kind of spring training for him. Matheny did not sound overly concerned.

In working with different catchers, Maness may be being asked not to throw his sinker and work on other pitches.

"You have a pitcher like Seth that can execute just about any pitch in any count, there's a lot of flexibility for him to make that pitch," Matheny said. "Some of these guys we've sent out already, they think they can make a 2-0 change-up and they can't."

Meanwhile, the race for the final bullpen spot offered little clarity Tuesday.

Scott McGregor, a non-roster invite, worked a scoreless and hitless eighth.

Power right-hander Jorge Rondon allowed a hit and overcame two walks thanks to the defense turning a double play in the seventh. Rondon has yet to allow a run in 9 1/3 innings, in which he has seven strikeouts and five walks.

"He's still fighting what he's always fought, and that's consistency in the strike zone," Matheny said of Rondon. "You see Dan Descalso make an incredible (diving) play for him and get him out of a mess on a ball that was hit real hard. He is better than we've ever seen him. But he's still got to keep working. But you can't keep giving guys free passes."

Kary Booher, Sunday Sports Editor of the News-Leader, can be reached at 836-1180 or by email at kbooher@news-leader.com. Follow him on Twitter at @karybooherNL.

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