Notes: Mulder making progress

Notes: Mulder making progress

CHICAGO -- Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan expressed optimism following Mark Mulder's first Minor League rehabilitation start, and said Friday that Mulder could join the big league team as early as the start of September.

Mulder threw 40 pitches, 24 for strikes and 16 for balls, for Class A Palm Beach on Thursday night. He was touched for four runs on three hits, but only one run was earned thanks to a throwing error by Mulder himself. Perhaps the most encouraging number came on the radar gun, where Mulder's fastball registered 91 miles per hour in the first inning and 90 in the second.

"It's encouraging," Duncan said. "It sounded like he threw the ball good. The gun readings were good. For the most part, I think he was happy with the way he threw. It's a good step forward."

Mulder will probably make at least two, and likely three, more rehab starts, and he is expected to move up the Minor League ladder as he does so. His next start is set for Tuesday. He could pitch for Palm Beach, though that team is on the road Tuesday. Another possible destination is Double-A Springfield, which plays at home against Tulsa. Mulder will throw about 60 pitches in his next outing.

"Now it's just [a matter of] endurance, conditioning and getting out there under competition so he can get used to repeating the delivery in a competitive setting," Duncan said.

"If everything goes well, I think you'll see him here at the beginning of September."

Encarnacion returns: Juan Encarnacion made his first start in more than a week on Friday, returning to the lineup after dealing with bursitis in his left knee. Encarnacion said the joint is feeling much better following eight days off. He last played on Aug. 8.

"I haven't been playing for a week," he said. "So I've been resting, and it's helped a lot. I feel much better. We're just going day by day. We'll see how it is."

Manager Tony La Russa still considers Encarnacion something of a watch-closely player, but he likes being able to put the veteran in the lineup against left-handed pitching.

"I think he's still limited to some extent," La Russa said. "We'll have to watch and see how he is. But he gives us a legitimate fourth-place hitter against left-handed pitchers."

Baby 'Birds: Brian Barden had a good game, but Triple-A Memphis lost to Oklahoma, 5-1, on Thursday. Barden singled, doubled and drove in a run. ... Double-A Springfield was rained out against San Antonio on Thursday. ... Palm Beach rallied after Mulder was finished, but still lost to Vero Beach, 8-6. Allen Craig and Luke Gorsett each had a single, a double and two RBIs. ... Shaun Garceau pitched five shutout innings, Antonio DeJesus hit his first professional home run and Steve Hill homered and drove in two runs to help Class A Quad Cities beat Kane County, 7-1, on Thursday.

Tommy Pham and Will Groff had three hits each, but nobody else could manage even a single knock for short-season Batavia in a 1-0 loss to Auburn on Thursday. ... Pete Kozma and Jonathan Edwards both went deep Thursday to help send rookie-level Johnson City to a 9-4 win over Elizabethton. Edwards has five extra-base hits in the past five games. ... Jairo Martinez tripled and drove in two runs Thursday, but the Gulf Coast League lost to the GCL Mets, 9-2.

Kozma picks up player of the day honors for his big game. Leading off for JC, he doubled and homered, driving in three runs. In 17 games at Johnson City, Kozma is batting .295 with a .358 on-base percentage and a .475 slugging percentage. The shortstop was the Cardinals' first-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.

This date in Cardinals history: On Aug. 17, 2005, Mulder cruised past the Diamondbacks for his second shutout in a Cardinals uniform, giving St. Louis the best record in baseball at 76-44. Mulder held the Snakes to five hits and two walks in a 5-0 win, getting 18 outs on the ground.

Coming up: Game 2 of this weekend's wraparound series at Wrigley Field is set for 2:55 p.m. CT on Saturday. Anthony Reyes will try to keep his recent run of success going when he faces left-hander Sean Marshall.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.