JUPITER, Fla. -- Carlos Beltran tallied two hits in his return to the Cardinals' lineup on Monday after missing a week's worth of games while dealing with and recovering from the flu. With the illness now passed, Beltran's attention turns to eliminating the tightness he has been feeling in his right shoulder.
Fortunately for Beltran, the tightness is not bothering him when he swings, meaning that he can continue to play in games as a designated hitter. Rather, the tightness is only a nuisance when he throws, which is why Beltran has not yet played in the outfield during Grapefruit League play.
"I'm just trying to be cautious," Beltran said. "There is going to be a point in Spring Training when I have to take the field. I just have to make sure that when I'm in there, I'm ready to go. Every spring you go through stretches where your shoulder gets tired, or your forearm or your bicep. When I started putting a little bit more pressure on the shoulder, it just kind of got tired. But it's not a big deal."
Beltran said he expects to travel with the team on Tuesday to Port St. Lucie, Fla., where he will face the Mets for the first time since New York dealt him away last summer. With only three weeks of Spring Training games remaining, Beltran is going to be playing more regularly, even if it is solely in a DH role for a bit.
"Right now, everything looks fast for me," he said. "The game looks real fast. But the only way that will go is just by playing on a consistent basis."
Carpenter not putting time frame on return
JUPITER, Fla. -- Though noting that he continues to feel improvement, Chris Carpenter would not speculate how long it might be before he resumes throwing again. Carpenter has been bothered for more than a week now by pain stemming from a bulging disc in his neck. He has not thrown since March 3.
General manager John Mozeliak said on Sunday that this injury was not new, but rather that Carpenter had managed the bulging disc well enough over the past few years for it not to become bothersome. Carpenter corrected that on Monday, emphasizing that he has never dealt with a bulging disc issue until this month.
His timeline to return remains fuzzy, and the Cardinals are going to determine Carpenter's pitching plans based primarily on how Carpenter reports that he is feeling each day. Because of this recent break in his throwing program, Carpenter will have to backtrack some when he does resume pitching. That means first playing catch on flat ground, working his way through bullpen sessions, and then eventually appearing in a game.
"It's something that they're going to take slowly and make sure everything is right before we start pushing," Carpenter said. "I feel like every day has gotten better, especially since I got the [cortisone] shot [last week]. It's going well. They're continuing to up the workload and make sure that nothing reacts."
Carpenter expressed relief that the neck stiffness was determined not to be related to a nerve issue. There were concerns about such a diagnosis after the right-hander began feeling some pain radiating into his arms in the days after the initial neck discomfort.
A bulging disc can, in most case, be corrected with rest, anti-inflammatory medicine and strength exercises. Carpenter is continuing to receive regular treatment.
Carpenter would not speculate on whether his season debut could be delayed by this issue, nor would he set a targeted number of spring starts. The veteran right-hander made only three Grapefruit League appearances last year before beginning the season on time.
"I'm not going to put a time frame on it yet," Carpenter said. "I'm going to go ahead and get myself ready to throw. As long as we continue to move in the right direction, which we are, it could be any day that I start throwing."
Garcia gets his work in against Braves
JUPITER, Fla. -- After retiring all six batters he faced in his first spring start, Jaime Garcia labored through an inefficient two-inning outing on Monday. Because Garcia needed 40 pitches to get through those first two frames, acting manager Mike Aldrete did not send the lefty out for a third inning of work.
Garcia allowed three hits and walked two, though he limited the Braves to just one run.
"It was just one of those days, not a very good one," Garcia said. "But I got my work in. It's Spring Training. I'm working on my pitches."
Garcia said there wasn't a particular pitch that gave him trouble, noting that at this time in spring, pitchers are still in the process of finding command and feel. He also didn't rule out the possibility that pitching on three days' rest -- something Garcia has never done in Spring Training or in the Majors -- could have affected him.
"I hate to make excuses for things, but maybe it had a little to do with it," he said. "I went out there trying to do the same thing I did last time. Last time, it worked pretty good."
Garcia is expected to make his next start on Saturday, which would be on normal rest.
Duncan visits with La Russa in Arizona
JUPITER, Fla. -- Former Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan spent Monday with Tony La Russa in Goodyear, Ariz., location of the Cleveland Indians' Spring Training complex. Duncan's son, Shelley, plays for the Indians, and Duncan joined La Russa to watch Monday's game from general manager Chris Antonetti's suite.
Duncan, 66, spent the last 16 seasons coaching in St. Louis before taking an indefinite leave of absence in January. He did so in order to devote his time his wife, Jeanine, who is battling brain cancer and recovering from a procedure last August in which doctors removed a tumor.
Though he spent 32 seasons as a pitching coach, Duncan said it hasn't been all that difficult being away from baseball this spring.
"I've been at it a long time," Duncan said. "It's actually kind of a nice break not to have to have the responsibilities that you have and put in the time that you have to have. Right now, I'm spending a lot of time taking care of my wife and her medical problems. So I'm staying busy and relaxing at the same time."
Duncan also offered an encouraging update on Jeanine.
"She's doing good," he said. "She's responding to the treatment that she's getting. The doctors are very encouraged with the results that we're getting. It's a very positive situation for us."
Right-hander Adam Ottavino exited Monday's split-squad game in Viera, Fla., after being struck on the right calf by Corey Brown's line drive. Ottavino did not face another batter after being hit, though manager Mike Matheny said afterward that Brown was going to be the final batter Ottavino faced regardless because of pitch count. Ottavino suffered only a flesh wound from the hit.
Outfielder Carlos Beltran is slated to make the trip north to face the Mets on Tuesday, which prompts the obvious question about whether Beltran will use the visit to hand over a check to Mets pitcher Jon Niese. Beltran disclosed earlier this spring that he had agreed to pay for Niese's offseason nose job and joked at the time that he would present the check to Niese this spring.
"If I feel like it, I'll give it to him," Beltran said on Monday. "It depends on how I feel in the morning."
It was two players called up from Minor League camp -- Amaury Cazana and Kolten Wong -- who provided the late-inning spark in the Cardinals' 5-4 home win over the Braves. Cazana's two-out double gave St. Louis a short-lived lead in the eighth. Wong then capped a two-out rally in the ninth with a walk-off single to center.
"Just to come through for the team and get a win was huge," said Wong, who began the spring in big league camp. "It's just awesome to be able to come up and play with the team. I'm just taking full advantage of it.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. MLB.com reporter Jordan Bastian contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.