KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Injured Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter took another significant step in his rehab from a nerve issue Friday afternoon, facing hitters for the first time during a simulated game on the field at Kauffman Stadium.
Carpenter, who has yet to pitch this season after being shut down during spring training with weakness in his right shoulder, threw approximately 30 pitches to a group of Cardinals hitters before they faced the Kansas City Royals.
“I was happy with it,” Carpenter said. “I was excited about being out there. I was probably overthrowing at times. The command wasn’t exactly what I wished it would be, but I also have to understand that it’s my first throw to hitters in three months.
“I was excited that everything felt good.”
The right-hander has thrown from the mound five times – four bullpen sessions and now one time against hitters – in the past week and a half. He began playing catch in late May and has progressed steadily since.
Carpenter will face hitters again Monday in Miami and if all goes well, could be ready to make a rehab start by next weekend.
“After Monday, I think we’ll have a nice idea of what the next step is and what the plan is going to be as long as I come out of it fine,” Carpenter said. “I’m hoping I can throw Monday and everything is good and we can move from there. But that’s not my call. I don’t want to get ahead of the whole thing because I don’t want to get letdown.
“You have to get to a certain pitch level. You have to get to a certain pitch count and go from there. That’s up to those guys, not me.”
Carpenter first reported neck stiffness and pain following a workout March 3. He had a cortisone injection to alleviate the pain, and returned to the bullpen mound nearly two weeks later.
However, his arm didn’t respond after another workout a few days later, so he returned to St. Louis for a new round of tests. He spent the next several weeks strengthening his shoulder before finally being cleared to begin throwing the final week of May.
Carpenter, who turned 37 in April, threw more than 270 innings in the 2011 regular season and playoffs, the most of any pitcher in baseball. He threw 36 grueling innings in the postseason, including two starts with just three days of rest and three World Series starts.
The veteran right-hander surpassed the 4,000-pitch mark for the first time in his career, finishing with 4,155. Carpenter has now missed nearly four full seasons due to injuries in his career.
The former Cy Young Award winner would probably need at least three rehab starts before rejoining the rotation. He went 11-9 with a 3.45 ERA in 34 starts last season.