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Carpenter continues progression toward return

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ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter threw an estimated 56 pitches during an afternoon bullpen session at Busch Stadium on Monday. It was the latest step forward in a progression that Carpenter hopes will end with him pitching in games this year.

The side session drew several onlookers, including manager Mike Matheny, pitching coach Derek Lilliquist and members of the Cardinals' rotation. They watched as Carpenter mixed in fastballs and offspeed pitches in what was his fifth bullpen session since resuming his comeback bid.

As recently as two months ago, Carpenter was coming to terms with the fact that he would never pitch in a Major League game again.

"I started thinking about wanting to pitch and see what can happen, but I know the ultimate result won't be good," Carpenter said after arriving at Spring Training on March 18.

That resignation has since been replaced by a growing optimism that Carpenter has not yet thrown his last pitch.

"It was good," Matheny said after watching Carpenter throw. "He's just going about his bullpens. It looks like the ball is coming out of his hand pretty good. We'll wait and see how he feels in recovery, and then keep moving forward."

The Cardinals have not yet locked Carpenter into a specific program, but will continue to push the right-hander as long as his body continues to respond. The numbness and back discomfort that forced Carpenter to stop throwing in early February has, to this point, not resurfaced.

The organization expects to have a better grasp on what the next checkpoint will be for Carpenter by the end of the week.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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