The St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent pitcher Jeff Suppan yesterday afternoon, and then defeated the visiting Seattle Mariners last night, 9-3.

The 35-year-old Suppan was cut by Milwaukee last week after going 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA, making only two starts to begin the season before moving to the bullpen.

He was MVP of the 2006 National League Championship Series while with the Cardinals and also was a member of the rotation that got swept by the Red Sox in the '04 World Series, posting career-best 16-win seasons in '04 and '05.

The Cardinals were in need of an added starter because Brad Penny (upper back) might not return from the 15-day disabled list until the All-Star break and Kyle Lohse (forearm) is on the 60-day DL.

"It was a lot of emotions and I was just going to wait and see what happened, to be honest with you," said Suppan, who played with the Cardinals from 2004-06. "But I'm glad it worked out and I'm very happy to be here."

Suppan's first game in his return to the Cardinals also will be his first start since Game 4 of the '06 World Series. He was issued uniform number 37, the same as he wore in his first stint with the team.

Though he's 135-137 in his 16-season career, the righthander was 44-26 in three seasons with St. Louis. Manager Tony La Russa said Suppan got the thumbs-up from pitching coach Dave Duncan after a bullpen session during the weekend.

"The arm had life, and they were together for a long time," La Russa said. "It's not dramatic but he tweaked him a little bit, so we're anxious to send him out there.

"He could really give us a lift if he's right."

Suppan said he had trouble adjusting to pitching out of the bullpen with the Brewers, and altered his delivery over time.

"A lot of it was staying tall, which has always been a foundation for me," he said. "I don't know how I wasn't doing it, but I guess it just kind of crept in there.

"So they were simple things that I felt very good about after just one bullpen."

In last night's game, Albert Pujols took one off the noggin for his team on a perfect day at the plate and cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick homered to lead the Cardinals.

Pujols singled three times and walked twice as the Cardinals bounced back after totaling 19 runs during a 1-5 West Coast swing that dropped them out of the NL Central lead. Plus, he stayed in the game after a throw to the plate glanced off his helmet ear flap in the fifth.

Ludwick finished with four RBI and Adam Wainwright (9-4) pitched into the eighth after a shaky start.

In other games:

* At San Diego, Aaron Hill had three RBI on a pair of doubles and John Buck had three RBI on two homers to lead the Toronto Blue Jays over the Padres, 6-3.

* At San Francisco, Freddy Sanchez drove in four runs and Pat Burrell - now hitting .407 - homered to help lead the Giants to a 10-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

Noteworthy

* Bobby Valentine said he has met with the Baltimore Orioles about replacing manager Dave Trembley, who was fired on June 4.

"I did go down there and I did talk with the owner [Peter Angelos] and the general manager [Andy MacPhail] and they have a whole lot of problems and they seem like they're really putting their heads together to try to solve them somehow, some way," Valentine told ESPN Radio. Valentine has managed the Texas Rangers, New York Mets and in Japan.

* Washington Nationals' hard-throwing righthander Stephen Strasburg was named the National League player of the week. He is 2-0 with 22 strikeouts and a 2.19 ERA in two major league starts. The 22 strikeouts were the most in the majors last week. Only Karl Spooner, of the 1954 Brooklyn Dodgers, fanned more batters (27) in his first two major league starts. Strasburg beat Cleveland on Sunday despite walking five batters. He is scheduled to pitch on Friday against the Chicago White Sox.

* Former major leaguer Oscar Azocar, a free-swinging outfielder when he debuted for the New York Yankees in 1990, has died He was 45. The native Venezuelan died at a hospital in Valencia, said Diogenes Nazar, press spokesman for one of Azocar's former teams, the Navegantes del Magallanes. Azocar hit .226 with five home runs and 36 RBI in a 3-year career.