JUPITER, Fla. -- Manager Mike Matheny has avoided talking in many specifics when addressing Allen Craig's rehab progress, but the Cardinals manager did note on Sunday that Craig is ahead of schedule in his recovery.
Craig, who underwent right knee surgery in November, was expected to be out 4-6 months as a result. That left the Cardinals preparing to play the first month of the season without Craig, who had been, prior to the Carlos Beltran signing, penciled in as the team's starting right fielder.
Craig still may not be ready by Opening Day, but his progress thus far is at least allowing him to still cling to that goal. The Cardinals are not willing to rule out the possibility, though they are also not using that April 4 date to establish a timetable.
"The job of the medical staff is to hold him back," Matheny said. "Once they start releasing him more, we're going to have more to work with. As far as what that lines out to [be], there are still other peaks to get to. I don't know if he's going to make that next one. He's where he's supposed to be and actually a little bit ahead. I'm listening to what they're telling me, and I'm not jumping too far ahead with my own conclusions that yes, he's going to be here. It's still too early to tell."
Craig resumed throwing this week, which marks his first step back toward full baseball activities. He also continues to engage in a vigorous workout program that is particularly focused on building up strength in his lower half.
Carpenter likely to get Opening Day nod
JUPITER, Fla. -- Though unwilling to officially name the Cardinals' Opening Day starter, manager Mike Matheny said he is "certainly leaning in that direction" when asked if Chris Carpenter would be the one earning that honorary nod.
Carpenter has made six Opening Day starts for the Cardinals and would be the natural pick to make a seventh when the Cardinals open the year on April 4 in Miami. St. Louis has already laid out Carpenter's spring pitching schedule, though the organization is keeping it mostly under wraps so as not to alarm anyone if there are tweaks made in the middle.
"You have to have some plans, but I don't want to put anything in stone right now because it's still too early," Matheny said. "A lot can still happen."
Carpenter is one of only two St. Louis pitchers who has not yet thrown live batting practice, the other being Jordan Swagerty, who has been dealing with right arm soreness. Carpenter is slated to throw that first live batting practice session this week, though he'll likely be held out of the early Grapefruit League games.
Carpenter started only three spring games a year ago, and based on how strong he was at the end of the year, the Cardinals like the idea of keeping Carpenter from pitching too much again this spring. He'll continue to throw on the side until he is ready to make those game appearances.
"We'll plug him into games with wiggle room based on how he feels," pitching coach Derek Lilliquist said. "In terms of his scheduling... last year he had three starts and he was pretty darn good."
Wainwright stays off mound, throws off ground
JUPITER, Fla. -- Ahead of most pitchers because of how early he began his throwing program, Adam Wainwright stayed off the mound on Sunday and instead threw on flat ground.
That's no red flag, however, as Wainwright is scheduled to throw another session of live batting practice on Tuesday. Based on how advanced he is already, Wainwright could conceivably be ready to pitch in Grapefruit League games after that session. But the Cardinals don't open Grapefruit League play until six days later on March 5.
The Cardinals are leaving Wainwright's schedule flexible so that it can be adjusted based on how he feels. That means that Wainwright could bridge that gap by throwing another side session or another round of live batting practice.
As pitching coach Derek Lilliquist stated, "There is wiggle room."
Wainwright, who is about a year removed from Tommy John surgery, continues to feel no limitations.
Manager Mike Matheny said that the staff has talked about getting David Freese some defensive work at first base this spring, just in case he would be needed there during the season. That work hasn't begun, though, and it will likely be minimal, as the Cardinals' priority is ensuring that Freese is ready to begin the season as the team's everyday third baseman.
The Cardinals anticipate keeping only two catchers -- Yadier Molina and his backup, who has yet to be named -- on the 25-man roster this year. Only one scenario would give St. Louis reason to change that plan, and that would be if Molina was not fully healthy at the start of the season.
Infielders Mark Hamilton and Matt Carpenter, both of whom are trying to push their way into serious discussion for a bench spot, are also likely to see some time in the outfield this spring. Carpenter has played almost exclusively as a third baseman in the Minors, while Hamilton has made 421 of his 430 Minor League appearances at first base. The other nine came in the outfield.
For the third straight day, the Cardinals had several pitchers throwing live batting practice to hitters. Among those who threw on Sunday were Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and Scott Linebrink. Jason Motte and Marc Rzepczynski each threw in the bullpen.
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.