ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter made a visit to the Cardinals' clubhouse on Tuesday, one day after he flew home from Dallas, where he underwent neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last Thursday.
While Carpenter is optimistic that the procedure -- which involved the removal of a rib and muscles -- has corrected a persistent nerve issue, it will be several weeks before Carpenter knows whether the surgery truly was a success. He did get an early dose of good news from Dr. Greg Pearl, who told Carpenter that he found nothing unexpected while doing the operation.
"He saw scarring. He saw a lot of entrapment of the nerves," Carpenter said. "He felt good about how he cleaned it up and what he did with it. He's very positive about the outcome. I'm sure we'll know by the end of the season if it worked or not, but the outcome of what he was looking to do was very positive."
Five days after the surgery, Carpenter is still dealing with substantial swelling and soreness.
"It was a lot more pain than I was expecting," Carpenter said. "I think it's going to be fine. I'm excited about it. [Dr. Pearl] is excited about the outcome. It's hard to speak about it now because I'm still swollen and still sore. It's a lot different than any surgery that I've had."
Actually, few pitchers have had the surgery, which means that there is some guesswork in determining a timetable for recovery and the steps to get there.
Carpenter's immediate plan is to allow the swelling and pain to dissipate. He is hopeful that he can begin strengthening exercises on Monday and from there will progress based on feel. Carpenter said he does not know how long it will be before he picks up a baseball, though the Cardinals have estimated the recovery time to be two to three months.
"The things that you have to be concerned about is scar healing, the internal stuff healing and then you move forward," Carpenter said. "I made sure I worked real hard before surgery to work out, keep my arm strong, keep everything as strong as I could so that I was in the best shape going in so coming out I would be as strong as I could and maybe a little ahead of the game when we get into the rehab."
Assuming that estimated recovery time is accurate, Carpenter will be able to follow a normal offseason throwing plan. That would have him on track to be ready for a full Spring Training workload next year. He is under contract with the Cardinals through 2013.
Carpenter does intend to pitch again, though he's also resistant to promising that he will.
"There's always doubt, with everything that I have been through," said Carpenter, who has now had four surgeries since the start of the '03 season. "But I'll do whatever it takes to get out there again."