ST. LOUIS -- Jaime Garcia, who returned to St. Louis on Sunday, spoke optimistically, but also cautiously, about the progress he is making during his ongoing Minor League rehab stint.
Garcia, while encouraged by the results of his two Minor League starts thus far, would not go so far as to say that his arm feels as good as it did before a left shoulder impingement forced him onto the disabled list in early June. Garcia most recently pitched on Saturday, when he threw 64 pitches in a Double-A start for Springfield.
"It's definitely better," Garcia said of his arm. "I don't want to say that it's where it used to be two years ago or that it is 100 percent. But I can definitely feel the difference."
Garcia's expectation is that his next rehab start -- which will come in Double-A against San Antonio on Thursday -- will be his last one. His pitch count will likely be pushed into the 80-90 range, which would leave the left-hander stretched out enough to be considered ready for the big league rotation.
"I think I'm definitely making progress, but that next start that I have, I think it's definitely going to be huge just to go out there build up the pitch count a little bit more," Garcia said. "[I can] get the confidence and be a little more consistent with my mechanics and have a little better command with my pitches."
The Cardinals have not confirmed Garcia's assumption that he'll be coming off the DL following Thursday's start, and the organization likely won't make its plans public until after Garcia pitches next. On Garcia's schedule, too, is to throw a bullpen session in St. Louis before he travels to Texas.
In the two Minor League rehab appearances he's made, Garcia has allowed one run on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He has not walked a batter and has struck out six.
"I can definitely feel the difference from before, and that's all I'm asking for," Garcia said. "I know it's going to take some time to get to where it's going to be 100 percent, but I'm willing to do whatever I need to do to get back there."