Is Carp ready for a real game? Matheny says he's right on track

News-DemocratJuly 10, 2013 

— Chris Carpenter will officially begin his rehab assignment Monday when he pitches for the St. Louis Cardinals' Class AA team in Springfield, Mo.

Carpenter showed enough in his three-inning simulated game Wednesday afternoon to convince General Manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny that he is ready.

"I thought he was very good. Very good," Matheny said of Carpenter, who pitched to Rob Johnson, Shane Robinson and Pete Kozma. "I think he felt good also. We're excited now to take the next step. He proved everything we needed him to prove. He's right on track to get out to Springfield and make a start."

Carpenter, 38, will face Arkansas in a 7:09 p.m. start. Matheny said Carpenter will have a pitch count of about 60.

"It's going to be fun, no question about it, to be able to compete," Carpenter said before learning he would pitch Monday. "That's what I like to do. No matter where it's at, it will be a lot of fun."

Carpenter's rehab stint, by rule, can last as long 30 days. Matheny isn't sure whether Carpenter will need that amount of time.

"How he feels is first and foremost," Matheny said. "And then, obviously, how things look. We're just going to wait and see what we see. Hopefully, we'll have good responses and he continues to move forward. But we're still going to move slow and continue to (see whether) he passes the hurdles that he has."

Carpenter has been throwing on the side since early May in his attempt to return from a nerve condition in his right arm. The former Cy Young Award winner's rehab was slowed recently by back soreness, but he worked through it and threw a four-inning, 106-pitch simulation game in the bullpen Friday.

The Cardinals then scheduled Carpenter's simulated game against hitters, during which he proved he was ready for game competition.

"My stuff is good," Carpenter said. "The timing and stuff, to make consistent, quality pitches down in the strike zone, still has a little way to go. But my stuff is there and I felt good, and that's key. So I was excited about it."

Robinson said Carpenter's pitches were much better than they were during a live batting practice session June 3.

"His velocity was up from last time," Robinson said. "To me, he was very impressive. He threw me some pitches that I had no shot on. I was just trying to battle and foul them off. For the most part, he was putting them right in the spots he wanted to."

Carpenter has had designs on pitching in the rotation during his recovery period, but he's taking nothing for granted.

The Cardinals, however, do seem to have a need with left-hander Jaime Garcia sidelined for the season after Tommy John surgery. They've mixed and matched to replace Garcia, using Joe Kelly and rookies Michael Wacha, John Gast and Tyler Lyons.

"I've got to go down there and get better and prove that I can stay healthy and prove I'm good enough to get in and take one of these guys' spots," Carpenter said. "What I've done in the past doesn't mean I get an opportunity to step in and kick someone out of here when we're doing so well."

Matheny, who watched Carpenter from behind the cage, said he also observed the hitters' reactions.

"That's more of the real way we read where (Carpenter) is," Matheny said. "We had some guys put together some pretty tough at-bats, but also, at times you could see it looked like normal Chris Carpenter stuff."

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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