St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter threw 50 pitches on Tuesday in a three-inning simulated game, taking another step in a bid to bolster the club’s NL wild card chances.
The 37-year-old right-hander underwent surgery in July to relieve nerve compression that resulted in numbness on much of the right side of his body in July, with the hope he could return for spring training. He upped the ante Tuesday, four days after working two innings in Washington.
“It was a good day,” Carpenter said. “Hopefully the next few days I’ll recover nicely and we’ll do it again.”
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was enthusiastic, too.
“The ball was jumping out of his hand. It’s really in his finish,” Matheny said. “He has sink, he has cut, which he wasn’t really able to do before.”
Still, Matheny is trying his best to keep expectations realistic for a pitcher sidelined since spring training. Several times he sidestepped questions, and grew increasingly annoyed, when asked when the 2005 NL Cy Young winner might be ready or how he would be used — or even if he would be used in the postseason without throwing in the regular season.
“I don’t know to make any clearer,” Matheny said. “We’re taking today, and I’m not counting on him to do anything except come back tomorrow and tell us how he felt.
“My philosophy is to just let the guy go pitch, and it’ll work itself out in time. I’d like to say I apologize but that wouldn’t be sincere.”
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said Monday that if Carpenter returns, it will be as a starter.
“I want to be able to pitch,” Carpenter said. “I also need to make sure I’m good enough to help this ballclub. We’ve got some quality guys. I’ve got to get my stuff right, get my command right, get my pitch limit up to where I can give us a positive effort.”
Carpenter said the plan calls for bullpen sessions Friday and Monday as he continues to build strength. He could replace either rookie Joe Kelly, 5-6 with a 3.34 ERA, or lefty Jaime Garcia, 3-6 with a 4.52 ERA entering Tuesday’s start against the Mets, in the rotation.
After the operation in Dallas, the hope was that Carpenter could return in time for spring training. Carpenter gave himself the best chance by staying in shape before surgery.
“Coming out of it, we knew it was a shot if I could get strong,” Carpenter said. “I went into it strong and I came out of it strong, so I was ahead of the game to begin with, and my arm came back nicely.
“We’re moving in the right…