Status of Penny's return on shaky ground

Status of Penny's return on shaky ground

ST. LOUIS -- One day after Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said there was no timetable set for starter Brad Penny's return, manager Tony La Russa didn't sound too optimistic Friday he would be playing the big right-hander soon.

In fact, he didn't sound certain of anything.

"I know the attitude is not to push it," La Russa said of Penny. "I have no good or bad expectations. No expectations.

"He can't go 100 percent."

When Penny went to the disabled list near the end of May with a strained lat muscle, it was widely assumed he would see the mound before fellow injured starter Kyle Lohse would, with Lohse undergoing surgery for exertional compartment syndrome in early June.

Now, Lohse appearing first has become more and more of a real possibility.

"I think you can at least ask the question," La Russa said of whether Lohse will pitch again before Penny. "I don't know how to answer, but that wouldn't have been worse asking before. I don't know the answer, but now it is worth asking."

The uncertainty surrounding Penny could impact Mozeliak as he searches for a trading partner before the Trade Deadline passes on July 31. With only three reliable innings eaters in the rotation -- and one of them a rookie -- the Redbirds may need to land another starting arm to win their battle with the Reds for the National League Central crown.

Neither La Russa nor Mozeliak were willing to give away any details.

"I know he is trying to do what is best for the club," La Russa said of Mozeliak.