ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter is about to be on the clock.
Less than an hour after Carpenter wrapped up a three-inning simulated game Wednesday at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals announced the veteran right-hander will begin a Minor League rehab assignment Monday. That first start will come with Double-A Springfield, and it will begin a maximum 30-day Minor League stay before the Cardinals have to decide where, if and how Carpenter fits with the big league club.
"There's definitely some excitement about starting the process to get back," Carpenter said. "Again, I hold a little caution just not to get too far ahead of myself. But things have been going well the last few weeks and to start that process to get back is definitely something to be excited about."
Before clearing Carpenter to take the next tangible step forward in his rehab, the Cardinals wanted to see how he fared with hitters standing in against him. It was not so much the results that mattered, but how Carpenter made those batters react.
For three simulated innings, Shane Robinson, Pete Kozma and Rob Johnson challenged Carpenter. It was the first time Carpenter faced hitters in little more than a month. Robinson described Carpenter as "a lot better" than in the previous session.
"His velocity was up from last time, and to me, he was very impressive," Robinson said. "He threw me some pitches that I had no shot on and was just trying to battle and foul them off. I think he wishes he was game-ready right now, and he might have shown a little bit of frustration with that, but that's just him being competitive and wanting to put his pitches where he wants them. But for the most part, he was putting them in the spots he wanted to."
Manager Mike Matheny, who was among a large group gathered behind home plate to watch, added, with a grin, that "the [radar] gun looked good."
Carpenter will throw about 60 pitches in his rehab start. The organization has not settled on how many starts Carpenter will make in the Minors, though this schedule will give him the opportunity to make three on normal rest before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. That is of consequence, because Carpenter's progress could affect the club's decisions.
While Carpenter will build up his arm as a starter, the Cardinals have not guaranteed him a spot in the rotation upon his return. Carpenter understands he has to prove not just that he is healthy, but that he can offer the Cardinals a boost.
"There are some tests that I have to pass to get an opportunity to get into this rotation," Carpenter said. "That still has to happen. I have to go down there and get better and prove that I can stay healthy and prove that I am good enough to take one of these guys' spot. What I've done in the past doesn't mean I get an opportunity to step in and kick someone out of here when we're doing so well. There's a long process to what this was all about when it started. And we're sticking to that plan and being honest with each other, making sure it's the right thing."
Carpenter did not have an opportunity to pitch on a rehab assignment last year, when he returned from thoracic outlet syndrome in September after the Minor League seasons already ended. His delay in getting back on the mound this year was due to recurring symptoms related to thoracic outlet syndrome, as well as a back injury.
At the time he stopped throwing in February, all indications were that Carpenter would be unable to pitch again this season.
"Going into this, when I came down to [general manager John Mozeliak] and approached him about this chance to go ahead and see if I could make this happen, it was to proceed with caution and make sure every step we do it the right way and not get too far ahead of ourselves," Carpenter said. "It's one step at a time and see what happens."
Starters set for at least six days' rest after break
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals have settled on a rotation order coming out of the All-Star break that will give all four starters at least six days of rest and will, at least temporarily, bump Joe Kelly back into a relief role.
Manager Mike Matheny announced Wednesday that Jake Westbrook will start the first game of the second half. Lance Lynn and Adam Wainwright will follow Westbrook against San Diego. That schedule gives Westbrook a full week of rest, while Lynn and Wainwright will each get six days off.
Though the Cardinals had the option of bringing Wainwright back on normal rest to pitch the first game back on July 19, the Cardinals instead chose to give their ace the extra time.
"Everybody else in the league gets a break," Matheny said. "Why not take our horse and give him a couple extra as well?"
An off-day follows that series against the Padres, meaning that Shelby Miller's next start will come on July 23. The Cardinals have been open about protecting Miller from too great of a workload, and this schedule helps in that. Miller will have 12 days between starts. He will be put on a throwing program during that break.
"He's going to have to do a little something," Matheny said. "We haven't put together the exact plan, but Shelby has never been in a situation like this. We'll put together a plan for him where hopefully he can stay sharp and hopefully get some rest at the same time."
The Cardinals will not need a fifth starter until July 27, and they will not determine who will take that fifth spot until closer to that date. Even if it is Kelly, he will be available in the Cardinals' bullpen for at least their first series after the break.
Wainwright proposes Mujica takes his All-Star spot
ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright has yet to decide whether he'll make himself available to pitch in Tuesday's All-Star Game. However, he proposed an interesting compromise that could benefit the Cardinals in two ways.
Wainwright wants to put teammate and closer Edward Mujica on the National League's active All-Star roster in his place. It would give Wainwright, the league's leader in innings pitched, time to rest. And it would reward Mujica for a strong first half in which he's converted 25 of his first 26 save opportunities.
"If my spot can go to a guy who's not on the roster, preferably on this team named Mujica, I would like to see that happen," Wainwright said. "Of course, I want to pitch in the game. But I don't want to be a liability in any way. If I have a pitch count of 12 pitches in an inning ... I want to see a guy who really deserves to be there go and get a chance to pitch.
"What a tremendous honor it would be to pitch in the game. But also, I want to be clear that if Mujica can go, I would love to see him take that spot. Let's put some pressure on them."
That decision ultimately belongs to Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who as NL manager would select someone to replace Wainwright if the Cardinals ace chooses to be inactive for the game. Wainwright has that option because he is starting Sunday, two days before the All-Star Game.
Wainwright can also opt to keep his spot on the roster and be available to throw a maximum of one inning. Regardless of his choice, Wainwright will participate in all the All-Star Week festivities.
If Wainwright were to pitch in the All-Star Game, it could take the place of his normal between-starts side session. Unlike some pitchers, though, Wainwright throws those side sessions well below maximum effort. That means he would have to alter his routine for pitching in a game that determines home-field advantage in the World Series.
"[Manager Mike Matheny] joked with me [Tuesday] that even though it is my bullpen day, I probably wouldn't want to bring my bullpen stuff to the mound," Wainwright said. "I save all my bullets for the games. If I'm going to pitch 250 innings, which I feel like I want to do, I need to have some bullets saved up. So going out there and throwing 50-pitch, max bullpens doesn't make sense to me. I learned early on, even in the Minor Leagues, that I could get the same work in with my body and correct mechanics, feeling my delivery and just not throw it hard."
Cards fan Urruela selected as club's Hero winner
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals fan Brian Taylor Urruela, of Tampa, Fla., has been chosen as one of 30 winners in Major League Baseball and People Magazine's "Tribute for Heroes" campaign. Urruela will participate in several All-Star Week festivities and be featured in the July 22 issue of People Magazine.
Urruela, who served in the United States Army Infantry for more than six years, lost his leg during an explosion in Iraq in 2006. After returning home, Urruela helped start VETSports, a non-profit organization that provides adaptive sports opportunities for wounded and combat veterans. The organization also created an annual college benefit for the son of Urruela's commander, who lost his life in the explosion that took Urruela's leg.
Urruela, a Purple Heart recipient, is currently studying sports management at the University of Tampa and intends to try out for their junior varsity baseball team.
Urruela will be honored during an on-field ceremony before next Tuesday's All-Star Game at Citi Field. He was selected as one of the 30 contest winners -- one representing each club -- from a group of 90 finalists.
• With his scoreless appearance in Tuesday's win, rookie Kevin Siegrist became the first Cardinal pitcher to open his Major League career with 12 straight scoreless outings. The left-hander bested Tyler Johnson's previous record of 11, set in 2005-06.
"I actually was thinking about it yesterday and this morning," Siegrist said Wednesday. "It's kind of unreal to be part of history now in an organization like this. It's awesome. It's an honor to be put in these record books."
• Matheny said that his decision to keep catcher Yadier Molina out of the lineup Wednesday had nothing to do with Molina having any setback Tuesday. Molina, who missed two games over the weekend due to a sore right knee, also exited Tuesday's game after the Cardinals led comfortably through seven innings.
"It's just what we're doing moving forward, taking opportunities when we have them to give him a little rest," Matheny said. "That's really been the plan from the beginning."
• The Cardinals' next appearance at Busch Stadium will come July 18, as the club scheduled an afternoon workout on the final day of the All-Star break. The workout is expected to last no more than an hour.
• The Cardinals are scheduled to face the following pitchers during their upcoming series in Chicago: Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.50 ERA), Carlos Villanueva (2-4, 3.39 ERA), Matt Garza (5-1, 3.22 ERA) and Travis Wood (6-6, 2.69 ERA). Sunday's series finale has been selected as ESPN's Sunday night game of the week.
• David Popkins of the Class A Advanced Palm Beach was selected as the Florida State's League Topps Player of the Month for June. Popkins, a 22-year-old outfielder who was signed as a non-drafted free agent last summer, led the FSL with a .413 batting average and 38 hits last month. He scored 18 runs and finished with an on-base-percentage (.450), slugging percentage (.598) and OPS (1.1048) that each ranked in the top four in the league.
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.