Carpenter was encouraged both by how he felt on Wednesday morning as well as what he was told by head team physician Dr. George Paletta. He will begin his regular pre-start preparations by playing catch on Friday, followed by a bullpen session on Saturday.
If all goes well, Carpenter will start Tuesday against the Pirates at PNC Park. Carpenter was scratched from a scheduled Friday start due to swelling and inflammation in his right elbow.
"I was excited this morning when I got up," Carpenter said, following the Cardinals' 10-0 loss to the Mets at Busch Stadium. "I felt good. I felt like it was back to normal."
Carpenter has been on anti-inflammatory medication. The medicine has all but eliminated the swelling, and he said that his range of motion has returned. The actual cause of the disconcerting condition was not identified, according to Carpenter.
"For me, I'm not concerned about it," he said. "I'll be concerned about it if it continues to come back and it's something I have to deal with for six months. That's not going to be very fun. But as of right now, the word from [Paletta] is we get rid of it, knock it out, and I should be OK."
Carpenter's optimism is good news because the right-hander is one of the league's best pitchers. But it's also a big deal simply because there's no obvious candidate to take Tuesday's start if in fact Carpenter is unavailable.
The Cards have a number of potential options in their bullpen, as well as at least two choices at Triple-A Memphis. Randy Keisler starts Memphis' season opener on Thursday, which would put him on turn to be available on Tuesday. Blake Hawksworth is slated to make his regular-season debut on Monday, so he could fairly easily be bumped back one day if needed.
On the Major League roster, the Cards have at least three right-handed candidates for a single start. Ryan Franklin and Brad Thompson both competed for rotation spots in Spring Training before being shifted to the bullpen. Josh Hancock has also started in the Majors.
For the time being, though, Carpenter and the club are optimistic that no such measures will be necessary.
"I'm going to start my normal stuff and get myself ready to pitch Tuesday," Carpenter said. "It's not going to be [to] go out and play catch at 25 feet for 20 throws. I'm going out and I'm going to get ready to pitch on Tuesday."
Miles starts: Aaron Miles got the call over Adam Kennedy at second base on Wednesday. La Russa said he simply wanted to get Miles a start. Only Gary Bennett and Scott Spiezio have yet to start a game among St. Louis' position players, and Spiezio has been dealing with a back injury.
"[In the] first half of the year, I want to make sure the whole roster is involved," said La Russa. "I think it's important."
Spiezio closer: As for Spiezio, he's expected to be available to do more than just pinch-hitting on Friday. He may not start that game at Minute Maid Park with left-hander Wandy Rodriguez taking the mound for the Astros, but he's expected to be recovered enough to play the field.
This date in Cardinals history: On April 4, 1998, Mark McGwire hit a three-run homer to key a five-run sixth inning as the Cardinals beat the Padres, 8-6, at Busch Stadium. Kent Mercker allowed three runs over six innings for the win, and Kent Bottenfield struck out three over two shutout innings for the save. Thanks to Project Retrosheet for the information.
Coming up: Following an off-day, the Cardinals make their first visit to Houston this year starting Friday. Adam Wainwright will start for the first time in his Major League career, with Rodriguez going for the Astros. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.