DETROIT -- Chris Carpenter threw his fourth bullpen session on Wednesday and is expected to add the challenge of facing hitters the next time he gets on the mound.
Assuming Carpenter doesn't feel any day-after pain from his latest work, the right-hander will throw batting practice during the team's weekend series in Kansas City. Carpenter, who was shut down this spring due to nerve irritation in his right shoulder, has had not setbacks since he resumed throwing off a mound last week.
"The last few bullpens have been full-effort with all my pitches, making sure that I'm doing all the things I need to do to progress to that next step," Carpenter said. "I feel good. I really do. My shoulder feels good. My body feels good. The effort level has been there, too."
Carpenter has equated this return-to-pitch program as the normal build-up process pitchers go through during Spring Training. Pitchers usually advance to hitters during the second week of camp. Game appearances typically follow, though the Cardinals have not set a definitive schedule on when Carpenter may be cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment.
"It's been basically what I've expected to deal with after not throwing for the last 2 1/2 months," Carpenter said. "I feel good, and I'm looking forward to the next step."
Aside from attending the team's season opener in Miami, Carpenter had not traveled with the club this season. That changed this week, and the decision to have Carpenter travel allows both manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist to observe Carpenter's progress.
"He looks good. He looks sharp," Matheny said after watching Carpenter on Wednesday. "[We're] excited, but also not putting that time frame when he can or cannot take his next step. We're just seeing how he responds every day."
Craig jams wrist; X-rays come back negative
DETROIT -- Allen Craig appears to have avoided a serious injury, as X-rays came back negative on the left wrist that he jammed while trying to make a diving catch in Wednesday's 3-1 win over the Tigers.
The injury occurred in the sixth, when Detroit's Delmon Young lofted a ball into right field. Craig couldn't make the catch, and his glove hand bent backward when it hit the ground. Craig grimaced upon getting up, though he stayed in the game for another two innings.
In between, he took one at-bat.
"It's never a good feeling when you feel a little something, but it should be all right," Craig said. "It didn't feel good, but I think I got lucky. I think it could have been much worse."
Manager Mike Matheny pulled Craig in the middle of the eighth for precautionary purposes. Craig returned to the clubhouse to undergo a few tests on the wrist. He passed them all without issue and said after the game that he does not expect to miss any time.
That would be a relief for the Cardinals, who already have a crowded disabled list. Craig, too, has been banged up for much of the season. He began the season on the DL as he wrapped up his recovery from offseason surgery. Then last month, also while making a diving attempt in the outfield, Craig went on the DL with a hamstring strain.
Furcal stays put at leadoff; Schu in two-hole
DETROIT -- Despite consideration given to moving Rafael Furcal down in the lineup, manager Mike Matheny continues to put the slumping shortstop in the leadoff spot, maintaining that he believes Furcal "is close" to being back on track.
While waiting for Furcal to find his footing, though, Matheny is looking for other ways to spark the top of the lineup. On Wednesday, that led to putting Skip Schumaker in the two-hole. Schumaker, who was activated off the disabled list on Tuesday, is hitting .310 this season.
Since racing out to a .370 batting average through the team's first 37 games, Furcal has cooled considerably. There has been correlation between his downturn and the Cardinals, too. After going 22-15 through those first 37 games, the Cardinals have a record of 12-19 since. During that span, Furcal has hit just .176.
He's scored 14 runs in the last 30 games after scoring 28 times in the team's first 37. His on-base percentage sat at .433 on May 16. Since then, it's .213.
"I know I'm struggling, but mentally, I'm positive," Furcal said. "I know I'll come back. The best thing for me is to stay healthy and get better."
The Cardinals are 20-12 this year in games Furcal has scored at least once. In other words, the Cardinals go largely as Furcal goes. And it's not been going well for either lately.
"There's no question that's been a big part of our offense when we've been successful," Matheny said. "We think about [moving him down in the lineup], but we also realize that the success we've had with this team early on was in big part due to what he's able to do at the top and the faith we put into him in that leadoff spot."
Cardinals looking for leaders to step up
DETROIT -- Skip Schumaker spent several minutes in a closed-door meeting with manager Mike Matheny on Wednesday, during which the two talked about ways to encourage others to take more of a vocal leadership role on this team.
"You also look at their personalities, and there are a lot of quiet personalities. There really are," Matheny said. "Sometimes you come into a completely dead atmosphere after you've just had a good inning and that's not something that translates well into the next at-bat. That's something we're working through."
The absence of much palpable energy in the dugout is, Matheny believes, partially the result of the Cardinals having several young players on the bench. It hasn't helped either that the team has been without the big personality of Lance Berkman for several weeks now. Rafael Furcal's loud personality has been tempered some, too, by his recent struggles.
Matheny is hopeful that the presence of Schumaker, who came off the disabled list on Tuesday, and Chris Carpenter, who, though still on the DL, is on his first road trip of the year, will provide a boost in the dugout and clubhouse.
"It's been fun for the last few days," Carpenter said. "We've got a bunch of games here coming up, and hopefully we can win some, and I can stay on future trips. [Being with the team] definitely puts you in a better position to be a part of it."
The Cardinals could get another pick-me-up in the energy department next week, as there is the possibility Berkman will rejoin the team during its next homestand. The first baseman has been in Houston since undergoing surgery on his right knee.
"It's good to get the vocal players and the guys with the experience," Matheny said. "That, to me, is leadership. Not just the vocal part, but the intensity. I don't think anybody doubts the intensity of a Chris Carpenter or a Skip Schumaker. Trying to keep that going with key pieces missing becomes a challenge for the bench guys, as well as the everyday guys."
On Wednesday, Jon Jay played seven innings in center field during his second rehab game with Triple-A Memphis. Jay finished the game 2-for-4 with a home run, triple, three runs scored and three RBIs. Jay, who went on the disabled list last month because of a sprained right shoulder, began his rehab assignment on Tuesday.
Matt Carpenter (right oblique strain) played nine innings in right field for Double-A Springfield on Wednesday. Carpenter went 0-for-4 in the game and is now 1-for-14 on his rehab assignment, which has three Triple-A and two Double-A appearances.
University of Michigan head basketball coach John Beilein was an on-field guest of the Cardinals during batting practice on Wednesday. Beilein is an avid Cardinals fan.
Four players picked by the Cardinals in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft made their professional debut with rookie league Johnson City (Tenn.) on Tuesday. Steve Bean (compensation round) went 1-for-3 with an RBI while making the start behind the plate. Carson Kelly (second round) started at third and was hitless in his debut. Ronald Shaban (33rd round) and Michael Aldrete (39th round), son of the Cardinals' bench coach, each pitched in relief.
James Ramsey, whom the Cardinals selected 23rd overall in the Draft, helped Florida State University stave off elimination in the College World Series on Tuesday. The Seminoles defeated UCLA, 4-1, and Ramsey went 2-for-3 with a walk and run scored in the game.
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.