ST. LOUIS -- As the Cardinals track Chris Carpenter's progress from thoracic outlet surgery -- a procedure that was expected to end the right-hander's season -- they are now seeing a late-season return as a strong possibility. And not only could Carpenter return, but the Cardinals envision him actually coming back as a starter.
That, of course, would require Carpenter to first build up his arm substantially. Carpenter threw live batting practice on Friday for the first time post-surgery and estimated that he threw about 36 pitches. He will throw another live batting practice session on Tuesday.
To be comfortable having Carpenter start, the Cardinals would need to see the right-hander build up to about 90 pitches in simulated games.
"Given the guys we have now in our bullpen, you can see some sort of piggyback scenario if it worked out that way," general manager John Mozeliak said. "He has to build up his pitch count. Given the fact he hasn't been able to throw much prior to surgery, he does feel good. It looks like he's on track to contribute. We're hopeful that's what happens."
It was only recently that Carpenter's intentions changed from preparing himself for 2013 to pushing for a chance to participate in 2012. At the time of his July 19 surgery, Carpenter was told he'd likely be down for three to four months.
"When you look at how Carp was throwing, it was screaming that this deserved an opportunity for consideration," Mozeliak said. "It was really what he was doing [that] allowed us to sort of rethink it."
Cards top prospect Miller set to be called up
ST. LOUIS -- Shelby Miller's climb from highly touted first-round Draft pick to Major Leaguer will be complete on Tuesday, as Miller will be among a wave of players arriving from Memphis upon the conclusion of the Triple-A season.
Miller, the Cardinals' No. 1 overall prospect, will be put in the bullpen, though general manager John Mozeliak said the Cardinals haven't ruled out the possibility that Miller could make a start later this month. For now, though, expect Miller to be used primarily as a long reliever.
"I think he made a lot of strides in the second half of the season in his game," manager Mike Matheny said. "I think, even more so, he made some strides maturing as a player and a person. It really seemed like he turned the corner in the way he was going about it. And obviously, he had a strong finish on the mound.
"Then we look at the fact that we're right in this thing. So we have to have our best. And if he's one of our best right now, then he should be here."
Just a few weeks ago, the Cardinals characterized a callup as unlikely for Miller. But Miller's performance continued to improve, and the Cardinals' situation changed. St. Louis' bullpen has been taxed because of the rotation's string of short starts.
After reaching the All-Star break with a 6.17 ERA, Miller has posted a 2.88 ERA in 10 starts since. He has won seven of those games. The improved results followed some mechanical tweaks and additional reinforcement from the organization that Miller should be less dependent upon his fastball.
"If you look back at how he's pitched over the last six, seven weeks, he's really turned the corner," general manager John Mozeliak said. "When you look at sort of the composition of our club right now in terms of starting pitching and not being able to go deep into games -- we're probably tiring a little bit as we get into September -- we thought he would just be a nice injection into that."
Miller wrapped up his first Triple-A season with a six-inning outing on Friday. The right-hander allowed one earned run on five hits in the effort. He also struck out nine and did not walk a batter. That gave Miller, the Cardinals' top pick in the 2009 Draft, 160 strikeouts in 136 2/3 innings this year.
Miller will have to be added to the team's 40-man roster, though there is already an opening. Also joining the Cardinals on Tuesday will be outfielder Adron Chambers and infielder Ryan Jackson.
Jackson will give Matheny another shortstop option in Rafael Furcal's absence. Adding Chambers injects some speed onto the bench.
Furcal to have aggressive treatment on elbow
ST. LOUIS -- Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who remains optimistic that he can heal from an elbow injury without surgery, is scheduled to undergo a platelet-rich plasma injection on Tuesday as a part of his aggressive therapy treatment. The injection will prevent Furcal from doing anything with his right elbow for 15 days.
Furcal was diagnosed with a Grade 2 strain of the ulnar collateral ligament on Friday, a day after he came off the field having felt a pop and tingling sensation in his right elbow. The Cardinals' medical staff is hopeful that the ligament will heal with therapy, rehab and about four to six weeks of rest.
That timetable is what prompted general manager John Mozeliak to define the likelihood of Furcal playing again this season as "very rare." Furcal, though, isn't ruling out a return, even if he'd be limited to part-time duties like pinch-running or bunting.
"I have to listen to what the doctors say about how I'm feeling, because I don't want to lose this year and then the whole next year," Furcal said. "I'm getting my mind positive. I think I can play before the season is over."
The Cardinals will likely know in about a month whether Furcal will need surgery to repair the ligament damage. If the treatment turns that way, Furcal would likely be sidelined for six to eight months. That would put the start of the 2013 season in question for the veteran shortstop.
Furcal is signed with St. Louis through next season. He will remain with the team during his rehab work this month, and his energy will be welcomed by his teammates.
"I'm going to be around," Furcal said. "It's a team, and I want to support my team. I want to be around, talking loud with my teammates."
Cards recall Marte to bolster tired bullpen
ST. LOUIS -- The demands cast on the Cardinals' bullpen over the past 10 days prompted the organization to promote reliever Victor Marte a day earlier than planned.
Marte, initially scheduled to arrive with the other callups from Triple-A on Tuesday, strolled into the Cardinals' clubhouse Monday morning with his luggage. He was available out of the bullpen later that afternoon.
"We need guys to help out the guys that have been carrying the load," said manager Mike Matheny, whose bullpen averaged 3 2/3 innings a game on the last road trip. "What Victor did a really nice job for us early in the season was getting out of the inning."
Marte made the Cardinals' 25-man roster out of Spring Training and remained on the big league club until being optioned on July 25. In the 12 appearances Marte made just before the demotion, he posted an 8.22 ERA. Opponents hit .429 off of him during that stretch.
Matheny did call upon Marte regularly to wiggle out of jams with men on base. Seventy-one percent of the runners Marte inherited were left stranded.
Upon returning to Memphis, Marte allowed nine hits, four earned runs and seven walks in 12 innings. He struck out 10.
Carlos Beltran, who bruised his left knee while making a sliding attempt in the outfield on Sunday, said the condition of his knee improved as Monday went on. Beltran did not sustain any structural damage and was available to pinch-hit in the team's series opener.
"When I came here, I wasn't really able to put pressure on it," Beltran said after the Cardinals' 5-4 win. "Hitting-wise today, it wasn't an issue. But for me, it's not about hitting. It's about going into the outfield and being able to play a good defensive position."
Beltran's status is still considered day to day.
Joe Kelly missed the chance to go for his first Major League triple due to some tightness he felt in his right upper calf while leaving the batter's box in the third inning. Kelly drilled a ball to deep center field, but the usually fleet-footed pitcher just coasted to second base.
That prompted a visit from Matheny and a trainer. Kelly convinced them that he would have no issue continuing to pitch, and the right-hander was left in the game. Kelly ended up throwing a career-best 6 2/3 innings.
The Cardinals named outfielder Mike O'Neill and Miller the organization's Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Month for August.
O'Neill, who also earned the honor in July, hit .415 with a .513 on-base percentage in 22 games with high Class A Palm Beach and Double-A Springfield last month. Miller, who will be promoted to St. Louis on Tuesday, highlighted his month with five wins and 53 strikeouts in six starts (37 1/3 innings). He posted a 2.89 ERA and walked just four batters.
Mozeliak said that consideration was given to calling up outfielder Oscar Taveras for the final month of the season. However, Mozeliak added, "His day will come. It will certainly be sooner than later, whether it's this year or next. He's phenomenal."
Taveras, who has already been named the Player of the Year in the Texas League, has a .323 average, 37 doubles, 23 homers and 94 RBIs in 123 Double-A games this season. The 20-year-old outfielder will remain with Springfield during its upcoming playoff run.
Country music artist Craig Campbell, who is performing in Columbia, Mo., later this week, was invited into the Cardinals' clubhouse on Monday to perform during an impromptu gathering.
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.