(SportsNetwork.com) - While John Lackey is set to begin his first full season with the St. Louis Cardinals, Jason Marquis is just happy to be back on a major league mound.
Marquis will make his first appearance in the majors since 2013 on Friday night when the Cincinnati Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals in the opener of a three-game series.
The 36-year-old Marquis made 20 starts with the San Diego Padres two seasons ago, the last coming on July 19, 2013. He eventually underwent Tommy John surgery and did not pitch in the majors a season ago, making nine minor league starts with the Philadelphia Phillies will getting his arm back into shape.
Marquis then won a spot in the Reds' rotation by going an impressive 3-1 in seven spring starts with a 2.90 earned run average, striking out 17 to 10 walks and yielding only one homer.
"The ball is coming out of my hand in a way it hasn't the last five years," Marquis told MLB.com in late March of his return from surgery. "I've gotten some velocity back, but that's not the big thing. There's just more life on the ball.
"I'm throwing the ball instead of pushing it, guiding it. I think maybe I developed bad habits over those years to protect the elbow so I can pitch. More than anything, that's what I'm happiest with."
The right-hander went 42-37 with a 4.60 ERA in three seasons with the Cardinals from 2004-06 and is 6-3 against them with a 4.15 ERA in 11 games (9 starts).
The Cardinals counter with the 36-year-old Lackey, who was acquired last July 31 from the Boston Red Sox for infielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly. The righty was 11-7 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 starts at the time of the trade and then went 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA in 10 starts with St. Louis. Lackey also split a pair of postseason starts, giving up five runs over 13 innings.
St. Louis later picked up Lackey's 2015 option, one that will pay him only $500,000 due to a clause in the five-year deal he signed with Boston in 2009 that stated the option would be at the league minimum if he missed extended time during the deal.
Lackey was shelved for the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery.
He is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA in four previous starts against the Reds.
St. Louis returns to action after an off day having split a weather-shortened two-game set with the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals won the opener on Sunday 3-0, and after Tuesday's contest was postponed, lost Wednesday's finale 2-0.
Lance Lynn retired the first 10 batters he faced and had permitted only two base runners before running into trouble in the seventh, when he was charged with both Cubs runs without recording an out. He also struck out nine in the hard-luck defeat to Chicago hurler Jake Arrieta and his seven scoreless innings of work.
"I think you just saw two very good pitchers throwing today, not making too many mistakes," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. "And when there were, the opposition was able to capitalize."
St. Louis' 1-2-3 hitters of Matt Carpenter, Jason Heyward and Matt Holliday combined for seven hits, three RBI and two runs scored in Monday's win, but the trio went 1-for-11 on Wednesday.
The Reds off are to a fast start this season, finishing off a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with Thursday's 3-2 walk-off win.
Todd Frazier led off the bottom of the ninth with a double and moved to third on a ground out. He was then able to score the winning run on an error by Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, who failed to catch Marlon Byrd's waste- high liner.
"It's very exciting to get a sweep these first three games," said Frazier. "We just have to keep on rolling, riding that wave. I know it's early, but early counts too."
Joey Votto, who had a walk-off, extra-inning hit to win the second game of this series, had a game-tying homer in the sixth inning an Aroldis Chapman picked up the win in relief.
The Cardinals were 12-7 versus the Reds last season, splitting 10 meetings in Cincinnati.