ST. LOUIS -- While Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig said on Tuesday after a 6-1 loss to the White Sox that he feels 100 percent healthy, manager Mike Matheny senses otherwise.
Matheny said the club knew Craig was not completely healthy when Craig returned from the DL on June 1 after being deactivated with a strained hamstring on May 16. Craig also began the season on the disabled list after undergoing surgery on a fractured right kneecap. He was activated on May 1 after missing 22 games.
Matheny said ideally he would've liked to have given Craig more time to recover and more treatment if the rest of his team was healthy, but the club needed the utility man back in the lineup.
"He's done the things that we've asked him to do, which is produce offensively and he's played good defense, too," Matheny said. "We were cautious with his running. It seemed like he was close enough without being 100 percent running that everything else was right. We knew that going in. But now we just need to be proactive with our medical staff to figure out how to get him over that hump."
Craig is batting .325 with two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs since returning from his second stint on the DL. He went 2-for-4 with a double and the lone RBI on Tuesday, but his range of mobility does still appear to be in question.
Craig was held up at third on a second-inning single up the middle by Tyler Greene on Tuesday. The ball dropped in over White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham and rolled into shallow center giving Craig an opportunity to score.
"I don't know. I had my back to the play," Craig said when asked if he thought he could've beat the throw home. "Off the bat, I thought it was gonna fall so I just went, and [Beckham] got to it pretty quick. [Third-base coach Jose Oquendo] has the eyes on that one. I don't know if I would have made it or not."
Matheny said he didn't blame Oquendo for holding up Craig on the play, despite Craig getting a good jump off the bat.
"We have to continue to try and get him closer to 100 percent because it's happened a couple times now on balls that we'd really like to see him push it a little bit, but he's still a little hesitant with his leg," Matheny said. "But I understand Oquendo was right there. You see a guy who had was burnt already once trying to stretch it a little bit, you're going to be very tentative."
Craig was ultimately stranded at third after Shane Robinson grounded in to an inning-ending double play.
While Matheny is certainly glad to have Craig's bat back in the lineup, Craig would be more of an asset if he was able to run without any hesitation.
"Every aspect of the game ends up costing you right now if you don't have it," Matheny said. "And even a little bit more speed, there's a couple instances that we've had that it would have resulted in a run. And runs are hard to come by right now."
Eight-man bullpen staying through Interleague
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals moved to an eight-man bullpen last week and are likely to keep that many relievers on the Major League roster through the duration of Interleague Play. Manager Mike Matheny said the less conventional split of eight relievers and four bench players "makes sense, definitely, as we head into American League cities."
The Cardinals' Interleague schedule doesn't take them to an American League park until next Tuesday. That means the club will play with a shorter-than-usual bench for the next 12 games, unless a roster move is needed.
The need for extra bench players is lessened in American League ballparks because of the use of the designated hitter and the opportunities for pinch-hitters and double-switches diminish significantly.
The Cardinals also have more of a cushion now with their four-man bench than they did over the weekend when, with Matt Holliday sidelined by back spasms, the bench was even further thinned. With Holliday healthy again, Matheny will have more options for the next two home Interleague series.
The opportunity to inject another arm into the bullpen has also been a plus for a team that has relied heavily on its relievers in recent weeks. The bullpen logged 76 2/3 innings during the team's first 30 games of the season. In the 31 games since, it had to cover 94 1/3 innings.
"I like having the extra arms down there, especially how we've been using the 'pen with guys in shorter stints," Matheny said. "We'll see how it plays out. I don't have any long-term plans beyond what we would do when the DH is in play."
Outfielder Matt Holliday returned to the lineup on Tuesday after missing two games with back spasms. Holliday had played in 58 of the team's first 59 games before being sidelined.
Manager Mike Matheny declared Matt Carpenter "real close" to being ready to head out on a Minor League rehab assignment. Carpenter, who has been on the disabled list since May 23 with a right oblique strain, has been taking batting practice with the club since the start of this homestand. Carpenter said on Tuesday that he has not yet been told when or where he'll head to get those Minor League at-bats.
Skip Schumaker (right hamstring strain) likely won't be far behind Carpenter, as he, too, is taking steps toward being ready to head out on a rehab assignment. Schumaker took batting practice again on Tuesday and spent extensive time testing his right leg by running around the bases. Schumaker is eligible to come off the DL any time after Thursday.
Jaime Garcia ended up not traveling to seek a third opinion on his left shoulder from Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Both of the doctors who examined Garcia last week agreed on the diagnosis of a left shoulder strain and recommended that the left-hander shut down for at least four weeks.
Right-hander Chris Carpenter continues to move closer to returning to throwing off a mound. Before the team took the field for afternoon batting practice on Tuesday, Carpenter played long toss in the outfield grass. He is optimistic that he'll be able to get back on a mound before the end of this homestand.
Yadier Molina played in his 1000th career game on Tuesday, though oddly enough, it marked just the second time in his career that he hit from the two-hole. The majority of Molina's career at-bats have come from sixth and seventh spots in the batting order.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.