ST. LOUIS — Right-hander Chris Carpenter's on-and-off attempts to make a comeback with the St. Cardinals are back at full speed.
"It's been a constant battle of consistency over the last few weeks," Carpenter said Friday after throwing 106 pitches, including warmups, during four simulated innings in the bullpen. "Today was a good throw. It's something we can definitely build on and I'm looking forward to whatever the next step is."
Manager Mike Matheny watched Carpenter's workout.
"He threw very well and was very sharp. He got extended, too," Matheny said. "He seemed to throw just as good in the (fourth) as he did in the first. You could see his stamina was there; he's in terrific shape. ... He had good late life, good sink, good control of his secondary pitches."
The plan for Carpenter is to eventually face hitters, then begin a minor-league rehab assignment. Carpenter said he expects to rejoin the Cardinals as a starter rather than work out of the bullpen.
Carpenter's rehab has been hampered by a sore back, an injury that first occurred in January while he was lifting weights.
"It's been a concern," he said. "It's something we've got to make sure we continue to keep sound, because that's what's leading to a lot of the issues that are going on. We'll stay on top of it and make sure it stays strong and stable and everything will be fine."
If the Cardinals believe they can count on Carpenter, it could minimize any temptation they have to make a trade to bolster the rotation before the July 31 deadline.
Jaime Garcia is out for the season after shoulder surgery and Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons weren't the answer during their limited exposure to the big leagues. Another starter, John Gast, is on the disabled list with a strained shoulder. Joe Kelly (0-1), meanwhile, will make his second start of the season Saturday. Carpenter would represent a more attractive option.
"Right now, I'm preparing as a starter," Carpenter said.
Beltran, Kozma idle
Right fielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Pete Kozma were not in the starting lineup Friday after a Thursday night game in Los Angeles, where the Cardinals stumbled in the ninth inning of a 6-5 loss to the Angels.
"Yesterday we talked to (Beltran) and he was getting a little worn out," Matheny said. "We had a couple of off days there, but still, guys are feeling July. We knew it was going to be a real late trip. It was kind of an odd night, so we talked to him yesterday and he knew today was going to be his day (off)."
Beltran is expected to be one of several players to represent the Cardinals in the All-Star game on July 16 at Citi Field in New York. Beltran was the top vote-getter among all National League outfielders as of Tuesday.
Kozma began Friday in a 2-for-29 tailspin that had dropped his average to .236. Daniel Descalso started at shortstop.
"Pete did a real good job (Thursday), just watching his batting practice," Matheny said. "He's making some very good adjustments already. Some of the rest is a benefit also. We're going to take advantage of Danny playing well and Pete continuing to get the work."
Albert Pujols' single against Adam Wainwright fueled the Angels' three-run ninth Thursday.
After Pujols' hit, Edward Mujica relieved allowed a two-run homer to Josh Hamilton and, finally, a game-winning RBI single to Erick Aybar. It was Mujica's first blown save in 22 opportunities.
Matheny said he replayed the scenario over and over in his mind, considering the different approaches he could have taken.
"I think if you don't think about stuff like that, then you don't care," Matheny said. "We make (difficult) decisions and we want to put our heart into it. That's just the nature of the position; that's just the nature of the job. Are you doing your job when (decisions) don't work out? You do what you need to do. That's just how it goes. That would have been a real good (game) to have, but it just didn't work for us."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.