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Carpenter on target to start Wednesday

Carpenter to return Wednesday

NEW YORK -- It turns out the initial estimates were pretty accurate. Twelve months and six days after he underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, Chris Carpenter is scheduled to pitch for the Cardinals in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Manager Tony La Russa made the announcement on Saturday in his pregame briefing with reporters. It will be the Cardinals ace's first Major League start in nearly 16 months. Carpenter will throw a bullpen session on Sunday in St. Louis, and assuming that goes smoothly, he will join the club at Turner Field for his 2008 Cardinals debut.

"It's the best news we've had," La Russa said. "Give me something else that comes close to it."

Carpenter last pitched in a big league game on Opening Night 2007, when he went six innings against the Mets. He came down with elbow trouble soon thereafter. He first attempted to rehabilitate the injury without surgery, then underwent a more minor procedure.

But on July 24, 2007, the 2005 Cy Young Award winner underwent Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, a procedure that typically has a 12-month recovery time for starting pitchers. Coincidentally, the Cardinals were in Atlanta last summer when the announcement about Carpenter's surgery was made.

On Friday night, Carpenter made his second Minor League rehabilitation start after pitching numerous simulated games at the Cardinals' Spring Training complex in Jupiter, Fla. In two rehab starts, Carpenter allowed two runs on five hits over 9 2/3 innings, striking out nine and walking five.

Carpenter threw 78 pitches, 53 strikes, in his second Minor League game. A likely figure for his first Major League game is somewhere in the neighborhood of 90 pitches.

"I don't want to put too much on him," La Russa said. "He'll do the best he can. I think he'll be able to get a legitimate amount of work. More than he did [Friday]."

Carpenter will replace rookie Mitchell Boggs in the Cardinals' rotation.

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

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