ST. LOUIS — With or without a trade before the July 31 deadline, the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching staff figures to have a new look by mid-August.
Jaime Garcia, on the disabled list with moderate tearing in his left rotator cuff and labrum, threw 40 fastballs from the mound Monday and Wednesday and felt improved strength and felxibility in his shoulder.
"After the first two times, it's just normal soreness again --throwing off the mound," Garcia said Friday. "But it's good. The shoulder, I can definitely feel a difference from before. I'm excited. I'm confident this is going to work out good. We'll see."
Garcia, who is 3-4 with a 4.48 ERA in 11 starts, hasn't pitched since June 5 at Houston. He will throw off the mound again Saturday and still is targeting a return in about three weeks. The Cardinals, however, won't rush him.
"There's no discomfort and it feels more loose in there," Garcia said. "It's definitely different. It's kind of early for me to say too much about it. But so far, what I've done, it definitely feels good and feels better."
Garcia said his mound appearance Saturday will be a key.
"Probably, the intensity will be a little different (because) I'll add my breaking stuff," he said.
"We'll see over the next week or so, see how it really is. But so far, the shoulder feels really good. We'll see how the next step goes."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny can't foresee using Garcia as a reliever when he is activated, thus easing the pressure on his shoulder. But he likely will face a strict pitch count.
"I would imagine he's going to be a starter," Matheny said. "He's still got a lot of hurdles to get over, but we're in hopeful expectation right now."
Garcia still is hopeful he will avoid surgery in the future. He has spent his rehab time strengthening the muscles inside his shoulder so they will better protect the rotator cuff and labrum.
"I hope I can pitch with this thing the rest of my career," Garcia said. "But the problem is in there. A lot of guys have pitched for a long time in this game and never had surgery with the same thing I have. I'm hoping that's going to be my case."
To remain active, Garcia said he will have to be in constant rehab mode.
"As many years as I'm going to play, I'm going to have to treat every single year and every day like I'm doing rehab stuff," he said. "But I'm confident that what I've been doing is going to really help me and help me to get back out there."