ST. LOUIS -- The comeback trail for right-hander Chris Carpenter began with a simple father-son game of catch in the backyard.
It could end in near-miracle fashion.
Carpenter had all but given up on this season due to chronic elbow and neck pain that sidelined him for 150 games in 2012. One day last month, he was tossing the ball around with his son Sam. The 10-year-old complained that Daddy was flashing too much speed on his return tosses.
"He's just starting baseball, so I started playing catch with him and my arm felt pretty good," Carpenter said. "He said I was throwing too hard. I told him, 'You're going to have to back up some and catch it.'"
Carpenter immediately reported his findings to general manager John Mozeliak, who gave him the go-ahead to try another comeback effort.
"The expectation level, I wasn't going to get too excited about it," Carpenter said, "but feeling good, and knowing that I still have the drive to pitch, I'm going to go out and try and see what happens."
The 38-year-old turned in his fourth -- and most impressive -- bullpen session Friday afternoon. He threw around 70 pitches and used his entire arsenal, including a host of breaking offerings. Carpenter came out feeling good and said he is ready for session No. 5 on Monday.
"My arm has come back and I feel strong," Carpenter said. "I'm not trying to be a hero or do anything crazy. I just want to go out and see if I can pitch."
Carpenter's session on Friday came under the watchful eye of manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist.
"I'm excited for him," Matheny said. "We didn't know exactly what we were dealing with at this time in his career, but fortunately he made a [good] turn and he feels better. He looks good."
Carpenter (144-94, 3.76 ERA) underwent neurogenic thoracic outlet surgery on July 19 and returned for three regular-season starts and three postseason games.
The native of Exeter, N.H., was never pain-free during Spring Training and his career was up in the air.
"He's leaving the door open slightly, but it's highly unlikely he can be back this season," Mozeliak said in February.
Carpenter had Tommy John surgery and missed most of the 2007 and '08 seasons. He has had his share of medical setbacks missing most of '02 and all of '03. He remains cautious about this comeback attempt.
"I'm not going to have super-high expectations," Carpenter said, "but as long as it continues to go well, I'm going to go out there and take that next step."
Should Carpenter continue to progress after Monday's session, he will look to step up his rehab efforts. Carpenter said he will know more by the end of the Cardinals' current 10-game homestand on May 19.
"Right now, I just want to keep going in the right direction," he said.
Motte in good spirits after season-ending surgery
ST. LOUIS -- Injured closer Jason Motte underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on Tuesday and appeared at Busch Stadium on Friday in good spirits.
"It was something that needed to be done," Motte said. "They said everything came out great. It went as well as it could."
Motte had been bothered by a torn ligament in his right elbow. He was hoping that rest would help elevate the problem, but the pain, which first emerged in Spring Training, still lingered. Motte did a little tossing on the side last week and said his arm began to "feel weird" after six or seven soft lobs.
"I wanted to keep throwing, but it got to a point where it couldn't hold up any more," Motte said.
Motte said he could have had the surgery a month ago, but he wanted to see if the elbow could possibly bounce back on its own. The long shot didn't pan out, so Motte decided to have the surgery.
"Being out there throwing, I said, 'This just isn't going to work,'" Motte said.
Motte tied for the NL lead in saves last season with 42, becoming the first St. Louis reliever to lead or tie since Jason Isringhausen in 2004.
The 30-year-old realizes he has a long, difficult road ahead. He hopes to be at or near 100 percent by the start of Spring Training, but that might be little optimistic. Doctors told him the rehab period is usually between nine and 11 months.
"I still feel part of this team, but it hurts," he said. "You want to go out there, you want to be helping the guys win ballgames."
Motte will remain in a half cast for two weeks. After that, his arm will be in a brace for six weeks. Then comes a lot of tedious and arduous work.
"I know this is not going to be easy," Motte said. "...B ut there's nothing I can do about it now but look forward."
Mujica: 'A birthday is almost like any other day'
ST. LOUIS -- Closer Edward Mujica celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday in low-key fashion.
"It's hard to do much during the season," Mujica said. "A birthday is almost like any other day."
Mujica is 9-for-9 in save opportunities heading into Friday's series opener against Colorado. He sports a 1.93 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 14 innings covering 14 appearances.
"He just goes out there with confidence on every pitch," said former closer Jason Motte, who underwent Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. "He knows what he wants to do."
Mujica, who was acquired by St. Louis for Zack Cox on July 31 of last season, received some shirts as a birthday present from his wife Erika and daughter Brianna.
Plus, Mujica was expecting a cake when he got home late Friday night.
"There's not much time to do anything," he said. "Not a big deal."
Steve Overbey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.