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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Carpenter encouraged by progress

Recovering Cards righty taking it slow to avoid another setback
ST. LOUIS -- When he prepared to throw a simulated game on Monday, Chris Carpenter had a problem -- he didn't have any hitters to face.

So Derek Lilliquist, the Cardinals' rehab pitching coordinator, ran over to the Marlins and borrowed a couple of the younger players for the session.

"It was a fun morning," Carpenter said. "I enjoyed it, and I know that they did, too. It was more game-like than a normal simulated game."

Carpenter threw another session on Wednesday, this time out of the St. Louis bullpen before the Cards' game against the Mets. With manager Tony La Russa, pitching coach Dave Duncan and others watching, Carpenter threw roughly 60 pitches and used his full arsenal.

It was the best he has felt since he had Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow last July.

"It's exciting, because I feel good," Carpenter said. "But I try not to get too excited, because I've already gone through what I went through a few weeks ago, where I was feeling good and had some issues."

With Carpenter having had a setback already, the Cardinals will be cautious in bringing him back. Whether he will pitch out of the bullpen, ala Mark Mulder, or simply rejoin the starting rotation is still up in the air.

Carpenter's itch to get back to full health and pitch during games has nagged him lately, but he said he can't get ahead of himself.

"It's hard," Carpenter said. "That's one thing that's hard. With the way that I threw on Monday and the way that I feel today, I feel like I'm close. But you don't want to get ahead of yourself, because you don't want to get sore and send yourself back."

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