JUPITER, Fla. -- On the same day the Cardinals ruled out having Chris Carpenter available on Opening Day, the club chose not to do the same when discussing the status of outfielder Allen Craig.
All along expected to start the season on the disabled list, Craig has progressed quickly enough through his rehab work that the Cardinals won't discount the possibility of having him in uniform on April 4 when they open their season against the Marlins in Miami. Though Craig has had no setbacks in his work back from offseason knee surgery, being ready for Opening Day would blow away the team's initial timetable.
Shortly after the surgery, general manager John Mozeliak indicated that a late-April-early-May return would be most realistic for Craig. And yet on Wednesday, Mozeliak said it would be too early to rule out a return date.
"Everything is on the table with him," Mozeliak said. "The way he's progressing, there is a higher probability that he is on our Opening Day roster right now. He is moving along."
Craig took at-bats in a Minor League game on Tuesday. He was scheduled to participate in defensive work -- both in the infield and outfield -- on Wednesday but ended up postponing that only because the fields were too saturated by rain. The Cardinals plan to have Craig continue appearing in Minor League games for now, at least until the organization feels comfortable that Craig is ready to play the field and run the bases without issue.
When Craig underwent a mid-November procedure to repair a fractured right kneecap, the recovery was estimated to last four to six months. Craig just passed the four-month mark on Sunday.
"I really compliment he and the training staff," manager Mike Matheny said. "They are on the front end of that timetable that they were talking about a long time ago. Allen was adamant about, 'I'm going to be ready for Opening Day.' We were all led to believe that that probably wasn't going to be realistic. I guess he showed us. He's now looking to push that timetable."
Opening Day start handed to Lohse
JUPITER, Fla. -- With Chris Carpenter sidelined indefinitely, the Cardinals have tapped Kyle Lohse as their new Opening Day starter. He'll face the Marlins on April 4 in Miami, where the Redbirds will help christen new Marlins Park. Adam Wainwright, manager Mike Matheny announced on Wednesday, will start one game on the team's opening road trip to then be lined up to pitch the home opener on April 13.
The Opening Day start technically won't be a first for Lohse, as he did pitch the Cardinals' first game of the 2008 season. There was a catch to that, though. What turned out to be the '08 opener was only designated as such because the scheduled opener, which Wainwright started, ended up postponed due to rain.
Though the Cardinals had held out hope that Carpenter would be ready to go for in Miami, Lohse has known for a while now that he was the backup plan. With the schedule that he's on, Lohse could make two more spring starts on regular rest and line up perfectly for Opening Day.
"It is an honor. But at the same time, Carp or Waino could be the ones out there doing it," said Lohse, who led the staff in wins and ERA last season. "I wish it was in a different circumstance, but I'll be ready to get it going. That's not really going to change my approach or anything. It's Opening Day, but it counts as much as the hopefully 33, 34 other starts that I get."
Lohse will be followed in the rotation by Jake Westbrook, Wainwright, Jaime Garcia and Lance Lynn, in some order. Matheny has not yet announced that order.
From the start, the Cardinals have had Wainwright's schedule laid out so that he would pitch the season's first game at Busch Stadium. It is an honor that Matheny wanted Wainwright to enjoy after having to miss all of the 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
"I think part of it is a reward for him," Matheny said. "Opening Day is special in St. Louis. I think it's a reward to our fan base. It's a big deal for them, and to see Adam after all that he's meant to the organization be the guy that gets that nod on Opening Day at home, I think it's a big deal for everybody."
Manager Mike Matheny opted to hit Tyler Greene first and Rafael Furcal eighth in the batting order today. Could that be a sign of what's to come this season? Probably not, as the club still envisions Furcal as a leadoff hitter. Matheny, however, also said not to be surprised if Greene or Daniel Descalso are sometimes at or near the top of the order, as they would bring an element of speed ahead of the team's biggest bats.
Former Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog has joined the club and was in uniform for Wednesday's game. He performed the duties of presenting the lineup card to the home-plate umpire prior to St. Louis' game against the Mets.
Mark Hamilton returned to Grapefruit League action on Wednesday after an extended absence due to a right quad injury. Hamilton entered Wednesday's game in the seventh inning to play first. He had returned to the field one day earlier in a Minor League game, finishing that appearance with a 2-for-5 showing. Hamilton had last appeared in a Grapefruit League game on March 10. He now has two hits in 10 at-bats.
Outfielder Matt Holliday extended his Grapefruit League hitting streak to 10 games with a fourth-inning single on Wednesday. Holliday has a hit in every spring game he has played this season.
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.