Carpenter's return likely after All-Star break
Veteran righty could begin throwing program in mid-June
ST. LOUIS -- The progress Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter has made in regaining right shoulder strength has been measurable enough that general manager John Mozeliak offered up a projection on Saturday that Carpenter could begin his throwing program in mid-June.
As such, the Cardinals do not anticipate having Carpenter back before the All-Star break. Even having a fluid timetable is progress, as, to this point, Carpenter's absence has been consistently labeled as indefinite.
"I'm OK with that," Carpenter said of the forecast, which he was first told about Saturday. "I feel good. I feel like I'm getting stronger. To be honest with you, I do hope that I am throwing by mid-June because that's a month away. With the way I feel now, I expect to be unless I have a huge setback or something."
It has been two months since Carpenter last threw. His Spring Training was interrupted by nerve irritation near his right shoulder. Since then, Carpenter's focus has been solely on getting his shoulder back to full strength. There are strength tests that Carpenter has to pass before he can resume playing catch, and the right-hander has begun to reach some of those benchmarks.
"Things are trending in the right direction," Mozeliak said. "Those tests, incrementally he has been doing well with. His strength is getting stronger. That's measurable. That's something that everybody is taking as a positive note."
Once Carpenter begins his throwing program, it will likely take approximately four to six weeks to complete the process of fully building up his arm. He'll begin by playing catch and long tossing before pitching off the mound. Because of the length of time he has been down, Carpenter will also have to pitch several times in simulated games and/or Minor League rehab appearances.
The throwing program will be similar to the one pitchers go through during Spring Training, though Carpenter said the length of the program will be dictated more by how his arm responds than by any predetermined number of weeks.
"I want my shoulder to work right," Carpenter said. "I want to be able to throw properly. I don't want my arm getting numb. I don't want to get weak. I want to feel normal and then move on from there."
Mozeliak said the club has not yet considered the possibility of easing Carpenter back by making him a reliever. The Cardinals took that approach with Matt Morris in 2000, his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Morris made 31 relief appearances that year before returning to the rotation in '01.
Asked if he would be agreeable to such a track, Carpenter said, "That is not in my control. That is in their control and what they want to do. Of course, I'll do anything they want me to do. I feel like I'm a starter, but if they don't envision that, or if I have a recommendation that they think it would be better for me to be a reliever, I'll figure out how to be a reliever."
Berkman may be activated for Sunday's game
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals expect to activate Lance Berkman from the disabled list within the next two days, general manager John Mozeliak said on Saturday afternoon. There is a strong possibility that the move will come on Sunday, before the Cardinals wrap up their series with the Braves.
Berkman fielded grounders at first base, ran sprints in the outfield and took batting practice on Saturday. He reported feeling no discomfort in his left calf afterward.
"We were hopeful of having him [activated Friday], but he still didn't quite feel 100 percent," Mozeliak said. "But after what he's done today, all the feedback I'm getting has been very positive."
Berkman has been on the DL since April 19 with a left calf strain and has taken only 23 at-bats this season. The Cardinals are expected to ease Berkman back in by initially splitting his playing time with Allen Craig.
To put Berkman on the 25-man roster, the Cardinals will have to make a corresponding move. Bench players Shane Robinson and Matt Carpenter seem most at risk to lose their spot. Mozeliak said on Saturday that he already has "a pretty good idea of what we're going to do," but did not want to make that announcement public yet.
Lohse expects to make next start Tuesday
ST. LOUIS -- After wrapping up an afternoon throwing session on Saturday, Cardinals right-hander Kyle Lohse said his minor left hamstring injury should not prevent him from starting, as scheduled, on Tuesday.
Lohse, who suffered a hamstring strain running the bases on Wednesday, said he felt "soreness, but not pain" when he returned to the mound on Saturday. That soreness is not considered to be much out of the norm.
In addition to throwing, Lohse went through his regular weight-lifting program and ran 60-yard strides. The hamstring injury has not prevented Lohse from doing any work that he normally would in between starts.
Manager Mike Matheny admitted to being "a little thin" in the bullpen on Saturday night after calling on his relievers to log 6 1/3 innings in Friday's extra-inning loss. The Cardinals opted not to make a roster move and call up an additional pitcher for Saturday night's game, though Matheny has targeted some relievers that he would like not to have to use unless absolutely necessary.
After surrendering one earned run on four hits and one walk in 10 1/3 innings in April, Mitchell Boggs has labored through much of May. In five outings (3 2/3 innings) this month, Boggs has given up three earned runs, nine hits and four walks.
Matheny speculated that some of Boggs' recent struggles have been the result of letting up while pitching in games that the Cardinals led comfortably. That was not the case, though, on Friday, when Boggs allowed the Braves to score a go-ahead eighth-inning run while walking two and allowing two hits.
"I think it's a matter of getting some good confidence and getting the feel again back there," Matheny said. "His stuff looks good, so he's going to be fine."
In an effort to speed up games, Major League Baseball is considering a rule change to the third-and-first pickoff move. As the rule states, pitchers can keep their foot on the pitching rubber and fake a throw to third if there are runners on the corners. If the rule is changed, that move would become a balk, unless the pitcher removed his foot from the rubber before making a move.
Unaware of the potential rule change before Saturday, Matheny wasn't excited to hear about the possible elimination of a play that he had his team work on throughout Spring Training.
"It's a valuable tool for us," Matheny said. "The problem is getting the [pitcher] out there to put some effort into it. If the guys put some effort into it, there could be some edge that could be there."
Asked about his decision to start Tyler Greene at second base against a right-handed starter on Saturday, Matheny said it was "a gut feeling more than anything else." He also noted that it was playing time earned by Greene's performance on the team's recent road trip. Greene went 4-for-14 on that road trip. He was hitless in four at-bats on Friday.
Drew Benes, son of former Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes, struck out a career-best 12 in a 7-2 win for high Class A Palm Beach on Friday. Benes, who has 35 strikeouts this season, allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.