Club taking it slow with Schumaker, Craig

Club taking it slow with Schumaker, Craig

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals intend to proceed conservatively with Skip Schumaker and Allen Craig, both of whom are in differing phases of their rehab work. That's a luxury the Cardinals seem to be able to afford, too, given how well their bench players have performed through the first 10 games.

Manager Mike Matheny said it's "probably too early" to expect Schumaker to have his Minor League rehab stint completed in time for him to return for this weekend's three-game series in Pittsburgh. Schumaker began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis on Sunday and has gone 1-for-6 in two games.

Schumaker played five innings at second base on Sunday. On Monday, he played seven innings in right field. Schumaker was not in the starting lineup on Tuesday.

Before leaving for the rehab assignment, Schumaker estimated that he'd probably need about 20 Minor League at-bats before he'd feel ready. He accrued just 21 in Spring Training before suffering a right oblique strain. Schumaker also knows the effect of trying to come back too quickly. He rushed through his rehab work last spring and then had just five hits in his first 33 at-bats.

"I think that was pretty clear when he went out to Memphis, that it's not just to get yourself healthy, but to get yourself right," Matheny said. "He'll be getting a good test in Triple-A."

The Cardinals are optimistic that Craig (right knee) will return to game action before the end of the week. Craig, who has returned to the organization's Florida complex, will likely ease into play by first appearing in extended spring games. Doing so would allow Craig a more controlled environment -- he could hit without playing the field, for instance -- and it wouldn't start his Minor League rehab clock.

Once Craig begins to appear in Minor League games, his rehab assignment will have a cap of 20 days.

Craig hasn't appeared in a game since March 24, when he played in a Minor League Spring Training game. At the time, the Cardinals were hopeful that Craig might be advancing quickly enough to be a part of the team's Opening Day roster. Those plans were reworked when Craig's knee began to swell after he took 10 at-bats in the Minor League game.

The Cards have not characterized the slowdown as a setback, but regardless of semantics, that appears to have been what happened when Craig pushed himself during those spring games.

"What happened was I think a few of us, myself included, was a little overanxious trying to get him back and thinking we would take him anyway we could get him," Matheny said. "I think all of us look at the roster, saw him and the ability to have that kind of right-handed bat in the lineup, you try and push it a little bit. That's what we were guilty of."

While Craig and Schumaker are expected to boost the strength of the team's bench, the Cardinals have, in the meantime, received more than satisfactory production from their bench. The team has four hits in 11 pinch-hit at-bats, and Matt Carpenter, Erik Komatsu and Shane Robinson all have batting averages above .300.