ST. LOUIS -- On Saturday, the Cardinals got their best-case scenario and then some.
Adam Wainwright threw 80 pitches in the right-field bullpen prior to their game against the Phillies and said his middle finger could not have felt any better as he held back a giddy smile.
"I'm very shocked right now," Wainwright said. "I can't believe how good I threw. I told the training staff before I threw today, I said the last two days I've felt a 200 percent difference in my hand -- just holding stuff, grabbing things, even grabbing a remote or something. It just felt good all of a sudden."
The news, no doubt, allowed the Cardinals brass to take a sigh of relief, knowing that one of the National League's better pitchers will soon be available as long as there are no setbacks.
Mixing his breaking balls with his assortment of pitches, Wainwright continuously snapped the curveball -- a motion he has not done since he hit the disabled list on June 8. Throughout his session, Wainwright began with his normal pregame warmup process before bullpen coach Marty Mason stood in the batter's box.
With pitching coach Dave Duncan looking on, Wainwright impressed and will now face hitters in a simulated game on Tuesday.
"He's making the kind of progress that we're looking for," Duncan said. "Today's throw was by far the best that he's had. I think he's ready to take the next step."
The control was very good, Wainwright said. When asked about his velocity, he said the Cardinals did not clock him but joked, saying his fastball was around 97-98 mph.
"Today I went at it 100 percent and tested it completely," Wainwright said.
Wainwright is recovering from an injury to the pulley that attaches a tendon to the bone in his right middle finger. Assuming all goes well with his simulated game on Tuesday, he will be able to make a rehabilitation start before he makes a much welcomed return.
Duncan said the Cardinals will make sure Wainwright rehabs as a starter, but the decision to throw him back in to the starting rotation has not yet been made. With Chris Carpenter off the DL, Wainwright may find himself in the bullpen if it continues to struggle.
"We're going to start off with the thought that we're going to condition him for the starting rotation and that's probably what we're going to do," Duncan said. "But you don't know what situation the club is going to be two weeks from now."
Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.