JUPITER, Fla. -- Joel Pineiro's biggest test on Monday wasn't the opposing offense or even a screaming wind blowing out to right field. It was his own offense.
Pineiro, pitching for Triple-A Memphis against the Marlins' Albuquerque affiliate, had to sit through a lengthy outburst by his teammates between innings in his first game appearance since March 7. He was able to stay loose and work a second inning, finishing with 34 pitches over two successful frames. Pineiro had been sidelined due to irritation in a lat muscle beneath his right shoulder.
"That was a good test," Pineiro said of the layover between the first and second innings. "That was a big challenge. I was trying to stay loose and move around and stuff. But thank God, everything feels normal."
Pineiro faced seven batters, retiring six of them and allowing a double. He struck out two, got two ground-ball outs and two outs in the air. He threw 13 pitches in the first inning and 21 in the second, totaling 18 strikes and 16 balls. Pineiro's fastball touched 90 mph on occasion and sat in the upper 80s.
Now the question is how he comes through it. In his last game, Pineiro fared well also, though he felt some discomfort in the injured area. When he went to throw his bullpen between starts, the discomfort grew worse, and he was scratched from his next game.
"I thought it was regular soreness," Pineiro said. "But when I went out there for the day of my bullpen, I knew it wasn't regular soreness. It was real tight. So I guess the big test is going to be when I throw my bullpen [session] two days from now."
If that session goes well, Pineiro expects to have three more starts before he can pitch for the Cardinals in regular-season games. He'll go on Saturday in a Minor League Spring Training game at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. That will be followed by an extended Spring Training game on April 3.
After the two games in Florida, Pineiro will head north to throw a bullpen session for Cardinals staff on April 5. Should that go well, he'll begin a proper rehabilitation assignment.
Most likely, he would pitch for Double-A Springfield at home on April 8 and for Triple-A Memphis at home on April 13 before joining the Major League rotation.
"I was hoping to start throwing earlier, but they told me, if we held it off this long, let's do it the right way," he said. "I guess it makes sense. I'd rather be out in the first two weeks than in August or September."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.