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03/11/2013 5:34 PM ET

After enjoying Classic, Salas back with Cards

JUPITER, Fla. -- Fernando Salas was back in the Cardinals' clubhouse on Monday morning, a day after returning to town following his time with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

Team Mexico finished 1-2 in the first round of play in Pool D; that record was not good enough to send the club into the second round. Mexico's lone win came against Team USA.

"It was fun. I am happy that I was able to represent my country," Salas said. "We fought all tournament, but we lost the first game [to Italy], so it became a little more difficult. I thought we played hard."

Salas pitched in two of Mexico's three games, which means he didn't sacrifice much spring work by being absent from Cardinals camp for eight days. Now that he's back, Salas resumes competing for a Major League bullpen spot in front of the Cardinals' coaching staff.

Manager Mike Matheny expressed relief on Sunday that Salas had not risked injury by getting in the middle of the fracas that broke out between Team Mexico and Team Canada on Saturday. Because he knew he wasn't pitching in the game, Salas was in the dugout -- not in the bullpen -- when the incident erupted.

"Support to the team but don't fight," Salas said, when asked how he handled the ensuing chaos. "Stay back. That's it. It's early in the season. It's not a good idea now."

As others have also done in the aftermath of the ugly confrontation, Salas pointed to the Classic's tiebreaker rules as the catalyst for the melee. One of the components of round-robin tiebreakers is run differential, which means that there is a potential benefit to running up the score late in games.

Still, some on Team Mexico took exception to Canada's Chris Johnson laying down a bunt with his team ahead by six in the ninth. Mexico's Arnold Leon hit Canada's next batter, Rene Tosoni, in the back with a pitch, which incited the on-field skirmish.

"There are different rules in the tournament," Salas said. "The other team said they needed the runs. Our team said, 'That's not normal in baseball.' I don't know. Everybody is OK, which is good."

Matheny 'feeling great' after back surgery

TAMPA, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was "feeling great" Monday after undergoing back surgery at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis, general manager John Mozeliak said.

Mozeliak said Matheny's procedure, which was performed to provide relief for the pain and numbness caused by a ruptured disk, went as planned. Matheny had hoped to miss only two of the Cardinals' Spring Training games and be back in the dugout by Thursday, but Mozeliak said the club would take that decision "day by day" until they see how he's feeling upon his return.

"What's important now is that he has to take it slow over the next few weeks, probably for a month. But I do think he's getting some relief from that procedure today, so that's very encouraging," Mozeliak said in the visitors' dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. "I hope to see him by the end of the week back in camp, knowing that he's going to have to take it slow and be smart about it.

"I did get a text from him that said he is feeling better, spoke with our medical staff and they're encouraged by where things are at. But he's got to travel back. There's still some things that you've got to deal with -- there's bus rides, how he's going to feel when he's sitting, standing, those types of things -- but he does know that this had an impact on how he was feeling."

Bench coach Mike Aldrete is serving as Matheny's replacement in his absence, with first-base coach Chris Maloney stepping in as Aldrete's bench coach. Triple-A Memphis manager Ron "Pop" Warner is serving as the first-base coach. Matheny is expected to return to Florida on Wednesday night.

Matheny had mentioned before he left that there were more "dramatic" options than microdiscectomy, the procedure he underwent, but he said he was "pretty confident" that he wouldn't need to explore them. Mozeliak said it will probably take another week or two to determine whether that's the case.

"Most importantly is going to be how he handles his day to day," Mozeliak said. "In other words, as long as he doesn't put too much on his plate, physically, he should be OK."

Lynn able to mix up pitches in third spring start

TAMPA, Fla. -- Aside from one "slider that didn't slide" that Kevin Youkilis banged off the scoreboard past the left-field fence, Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn accomplished everything he wanted to in Monday's start against the Yankees.

Lynn, set to be St. Louis' fourth starter, gave up one run -- Youkilis' fourth-inning homer -- on two hits and a walk while striking out one over four innings, his best results so far this spring. Lynn gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings over his first two Grapefruit League starts. St. Louis lost to New York, 4-0.

Lynn felt he was better able to mix up his pitches and utilize his curveball and changeup. He didn't get ahead in the count as often as he would have liked to, but he induced outs -- eight via ground balls, three in the air -- when he had to.

"The results were good. I think he will admit that the day went just the way he wanted," bench coach Mike Aldrete said. "He did make a mistake, and it cost him a home run. But I think it was encouraging from his standpoint.

"I felt like his fastball is on its way back, and he mixed in his other pitches and controlled some counts. ... All in all, I thought it was a positive outing."

It's a good time of the spring for Lynn to be rounding into form, as he should make only three more starts before the regular season begins. Lynn said he wants to be able to execute his game plan now just like he would during the regular season, but that will become especially important in his final two Spring Training starts.

"You start to execute the way you're going to go out, I guess, during the season," Lynn said. "We still have time, but when it's all said and done, you don't want to give up runs or hits ever. That's just part of our DNA. We don't ever want to give up runs or hits, but you've got to go through some of those things this time of year just to get pitches better that aren't as good as they need to be so you don't have that issue during the season."

Freese plays six innings in return to hot corner

TAMPA, Fla. -- David Freese was back at third base Monday for the first time in a week, starting and playing six innings at the hot corner in the Cardinals' 4-0 loss against the Yankees.

Freese, who was limited by a sore tailbone he injured when he fell trying to catch a ball on March 4, went 1-for-3 with a strikeout and snared a hard-hit line drive off the bat of Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez in the fourth inning, the only defensive play he had to make all game.

"That was the plan," bench coach Mike Aldrete said. "Stayed with the plan, we were able to. I think David came through it nicely. Put a couple nice swings on the baseball in his second or third at-bat. Positive day overall for David."

Freese won't be making the trip to Disney with the Cardinals on Tuesday, as he'll head back to the Spring Training complex in Jupiter. St. Louis has an off-day Wednesday, so Freese will have at least two days in a row off before his next game at third base.

Worth noting

• Matt Holliday said on Monday that he does not expect to travel to Orlando on Tuesday to play in the Cardinals' game against Atlanta at 12:05 p.m. CT. After a three-day stomach flu, Holliday resumed baseball activities on Sunday. He participated in workouts again on Monday but is still trying to get back to his normal energy level. Holliday hasn't played since last Wednesday.

• The Cardinals' fifth-starter competition will be front and center on Thursday, as both Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller are scheduled to pitch in that game. The appearances will be the third of the spring for each of them. Kelly will start, but Mozeliak said it wasn't important which one got the nod.

As for the competition itself, Mozeliak said, "I think there's some clarity, but no decision has been made. Nor does it have to be today."

• The Cardinals optioned right-hander Jorge Rondon to Triple-A Memphis following their 4-0 loss to the Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field, leaving 51 players on their Major League Spring Training roster. Rondon pitched three innings over three Grapefruit League appearances, running up a 6.00 ERA.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.