ST. LOUIS -- As the Cardinals track Chris Carpenter's progress from thoracic outlet surgery -- a procedure that was expected to end the right-hander's season -- they are now seeing a late-season return as a strong possibility. And not only could Carpenter return, but the Cardinals envision him actually coming back as a starter.
That, of course, would require Carpenter to first build up his arm substantially. Carpenter threw live batting practice on Friday for the first time post-surgery and estimated that he threw about 36 pitches. He will throw another live batting practice session on Tuesday.
To be comfortable having Carpenter start, the Cardinals would need to see the right-hander build up to about 90 pitches in simulated games.
"Given the guys we have now in our bullpen, you can see some sort of piggyback scenario if it worked out that way," general manager John Mozeliak said. "He has to build up his pitch count. Given the fact he hasn't been able to throw much prior to surgery, he does feel good. It looks like he's on track to contribute. We're hopeful that's what happens."
It was only recently that Carpenter's intentions changed from preparing himself for 2013 to pushing for a chance to participate in 2012. At the time of his July 19 surgery, Carpenter was told he'd likely be down for three to four months.
"When you look at how Carp was throwing, it was screaming that this deserved an opportunity for consideration," Mozeliak said. "It was really what he was doing [that] allowed us to sort of rethink it."