ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter left Busch Stadium on Tuesday afternoon with a big smile. That should tell you something, since he hasn't had much to smile about in a baseball sense lately.
Carpenter threw off a mound for the first time in more than a month during the Cardinals' workout before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. He was cleared by a neurologist earlier in the day, which was the last step before he could begin throwing bullpen sessions. He has been sidelined with a biceps strain and nerve irritation in his right arm.
"It was good," Carpenter said. "It was actually better than I expected, location-wise and everything else, for not throwing off a mound in four weeks. The ball was coming out good. I felt strong. My location was good, and I threw free and easy."
The right-hander, who was St. Louis' best starting pitcher this season, but hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 18, will throw another session on Thursday. If all goes well in that throw, it's conceivable that he could be medically cleared to pitch in the World Series -- should the Cardinals overcome their 3-2 deficit in the NLCS.
"His studies keep improving and he's feeling better, so we're gonna keep progressing his throwing," said St. Louis trainer Barry Weinberg. "He threw 26 pitches and said he felt really good."
Carpenter would likely have been the Cards' No. 1 starter in the playoffs. However, he was removed from a Sept. 18 game against Arizona with soreness in his biceps, and the biceps problem was later diagnosed to have been caused by nerve irritation.
He has been throwing on flat ground for a week, and the team had targeted a Wednesday bullpen session. But once the neurological exam confirmed what other examinations were indicating -- that is, that Carpenter is progressing smoothly -- the righty went ahead and took the mound.
"Now that I've had [the exam] so many times, I can pretty much tell if it's good or bad," Carpenter said. "The results were good. They were better than last week. Everything feels good."
Chris Carpenter / P
Weight: 230 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Carpenter threw all fastballs in his bullpen session, both two-seam sinkers and four-seam rising fastballs, and he threw to various spots in the strike zone.
A little more than a week ago, manager Tony La Russa all but ruled out the possibility of Carpenter pitching again this season. However, Carpenter's rapid progress continues to provide hope. He likely wouldn't be able to start early in the World Series, but a late-series start may not be out of the question.
"I've said all along, I'm taking every day one day at a time," Carpenter said. "If there's a 10 percent chance or hope, I'm gonna keep that hope open. But it's not up to me. It's what they want to do. If there is a chance or risk or whatever, I don't know. I go by what they say and what the doctors say. Obviously I know how I feel, and I feel good."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.