ST. LOUIS -- The progress Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter has made in regaining right shoulder strength has been measurable enough that general manager John Mozeliak offered up a projection on Saturday that Carpenter could begin his throwing program in mid-June.
As such, the Cardinals do not anticipate having Carpenter back before the All-Star break. Even having a fluid timetable is progress, as, to this point, Carpenter's absence has been consistently labeled as indefinite.
"I'm OK with that," Carpenter said of the forecast, which he was first told about Saturday. "I feel good. I feel like I'm getting stronger. To be honest with you, I do hope that I am throwing by mid-June because that's a month away. With the way I feel now, I expect to be unless I have a huge setback or something."
It has been two months since Carpenter last threw. His Spring Training was interrupted by nerve irritation near his right shoulder. Since then, Carpenter's focus has been solely on getting his shoulder back to full strength. There are strength tests that Carpenter has to pass before he can resume playing catch, and the right-hander has begun to reach some of those benchmarks.
"Things are trending in the right direction," Mozeliak said. "Those tests, incrementally he has been doing well with. His strength is getting stronger. That's measurable. That's something that everybody is taking as a positive note."
Once Carpenter begins his throwing program, it will likely take approximately four to six weeks to complete the process of fully building up his arm. He'll begin by playing catch and long tossing before pitching off the mound. Because of the length of time he has been down, Carpenter will also have to pitch several times in simulated games and/or Minor League rehab appearances.
The throwing program will be similar to the one pitchers go through during Spring Training, though Carpenter said the length of the program will be dictated more by how his arm responds than by any predetermined number of weeks.
"I want my shoulder to work right," Carpenter said. "I want to be able to throw properly. I don't want my arm getting numb. I don't want to get weak. I want to feel normal and then move on from there."
Mozeliak said the club has not yet considered the possibility of easing Carpenter back by making him a reliever. The Cardinals took that approach with Matt Morris in 2000, his first year back from Tommy John surgery. Morris made 31 relief appearances that year before returning to the rotation in '01.
Asked if he would be agreeable to such a track, Carpenter said, "That is not in my control. That is in their control and what they want to do. Of course, I'll do anything they want me to do. I feel like I'm a starter, but if they don't envision that, or if I have a recommendation that they think it would be better for me to be a reliever, I'll figure out how to be a reliever."