JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter took another step in the right direction on Friday, when he stepped onto the bullpen mound and threw 30 fastballs to catcher Steven Hill. The mound session came 13 days after Carpenter's last one, and the right-hander said afterward that it actually went a little better than he had hoped.
Carpenter was cleared to return to the mound after reporting no neck stiffness during back-to-back days of throwing off flat ground. He estimated that he threw at 70-75 percent effort on Friday.
"I felt good," Carpenter said. "The neck feels good. My arm feels good. Hopefully the next step [will be] either we do that again in a day or so, or we do some live [batting practice] to try and move it in the right direction."
What that next step will be remains unknown. The Cardinals were going to reevaluate Carpenter after Friday's work, and the right-hander wants to make sure he wakes up with no issues on Saturday. Assuming that's the case, Carpenter could be back on the mound as early as Sunday.
A more concrete timeline -- including when Carpenter would be ready for Grapefruit League games -- could come after he throws off the mound next. Manager Mike Matheny said that he wouldn't necessarily have to see Carpenter throw a batting-practice session before feeling comfortable moving him into game action.
As it concerns his neck, Carpenter's attention has now turned from treatment to strengthening work so that he can decrease the chances of stiffness becoming an issue again. Carpenter said that the club had initially indicated that he would likely undergo a second MRI exam to see if the bulging disc had moved back into place. That MRI has, at this point, not been scheduled.