St. Louis Cardinals

Siegrist inching toward return to bullpen; Carpenter, Piscotty get needed breaks

Kevin Siegrist works in a May 1 game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium.
Kevin Siegrist works in a May 1 game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Busch Stadium. Scott Rovak/St. Louis Cardinals

A healthier Kevin Siegrist took a step closer to rejoining the St. Louis Cardinals’ bullpen Saturday.

Siegrist, who was injected with cortisone about a week ago to relieve discomfort associated with his cervical spine sprain, threw off flat ground and said he felt fine.

Siegrist (1-1, 4.28 ERA) hasn’t pitched since June 22.

“It’s night and day difference,” Siegrist said of effects of the cortisone. “It’s something I’ve tried to manage since the beginning of the season. Some days, it would be good. Some days, I didn’t know if I could deal with it anymore. I decided to get it taken care of and I feel a lot better.”

Siegrist said he experienced a variety of pain.

“It would get tight, but when I was throwing, afterward I would have a bad, dead arm; I didn’t feel anything,” Siegrist said. “But later that night, that’s when I would start feeling everything. And the recovery from it, I didn’t know how long it would take on a day-to-day basis. But right now, it feels really, really good and I’m happy with the direction we went.”

John Mozeliak, promoted from general manager to president of baseball operations Friday, said Siegrist could be activated in the next week. Siegrist isn’t yet sure.

“We’ll see how my throwing progresses,” he said. “I’m not going to give you an answer right now, but it feels good. I’m passing all the tests they give me. I just have to stay on top of it with the trainers and stuff like that. Just some exercises and stuff like that.”

Carpenter sits

First baseman Matt Carpenter, who fielded ground balls at second base for several minutes Friday, didn’t start at the position Saturday after all. In fact, he didn’t start anywhere.

“We were just doing that to mess with you guys,” said Carpenter, who was replaced at first base by rookie Luke Voit as the Cardinals faced left-hander Gio Gonzalez. “I’m working at it, but I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. We’ll see. There’s no guarantee.”

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Carpenter needed a break. He is 5-for-40 (.125) in his last 12 games and hasn’t had a multi-hit game since June 16.

“He’s our most valuable bench player today,” Matheny said. “He’s really good on the bench, by the way. He may have more life and energy than any other player. It’s amazing how valuable he is on the player and on the bench, too.”

Matheny said Carpenter has hit a wall, which has been a problem in the past. Carpenter is a notorious hard worker who hasn’t mastered working with less pace.

“We have some metrics we follow that talk about the workload guys have had, and his has been heavy,” Matheny said. “He’s a guy we had earmarked (for a break) with the lefty today. There’s still another week-plus we got before we get a day off. We’ve got to try to find a way to get these guys a little bit of rest.”

Matheny also idled right fielder Stephen Piscotty, who was replaced by Jose Martinez.

“We’re just kind of watching (Piscotty),” Matheny said. “He’s kind of on our watch list; (he’s) on the tired scale. We’re keeping pretty close tabs on these guys, whether it be their hydration level, their weight. All of that goes into trying to make a good decision.

“It’s nice to have options. The way Voit and Jose have been swinging, it gives us some good options.”

‘It’s about us’

The Cardinals will reach the 81-game mark of the season Sunday night and are in the thick of the NL Central race despite flaws that have prevented them from being above .500.

Only five games separated Milwaukee, Chicago the Cardinals and Pittsburgh as play began Saturday. Matheny said he wastes no time trying to assess the race in the division.

“To me, it’s about us and how we play,” Matheny said. “I think you get lost and distracted by stuff like what the rest of the division is doing that you can’t control, except when we play them. I’ve been real excited about this last week. Here’s something that I feel, maybe for the first time this season ... has been a really clean, crisp level of baseball.

“My message stays the same with these guys. It has been when things are going rough or when things are going well. That’s what we demand of ourselves. If we know that we’re playing the kind of baseball we want to play, then the results are going to be there. Keep trusting that, do your part. Guys are in a good place right now.” 

David Wilhelm: @DavidMWilhelm