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06/06/07 6:18 PM ET

Big step: Carpenter plays catch

Ace right-hander makes first throws since elbow surgery

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter took a significant stride in his recovery from elbow surgery on Wednesday, when he played catch for the first time since he underwent the operation on May 8. Carpenter made 60 throws from a 60-feet distance, throwing with head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg.

"It's the first step in getting myself back where I want to be, and that's out on the mound," Carpenter said. "So yeah, I was waiting for this day. Really, yesterday was the exciting day, when [Dr. George Paletta] said I could go ahead and start throwing."

Carpenter will throw again on Friday, and then on an every-other-day schedule for a total of 10 days. At the end of that span, he will be re-evaluated to determine whether he can begin throwing off a mound. The 2005 National League Cy Young Award winner last pitched on Opening Night.

With each throwing session, Carpenter will stretch the distance of his throws. On Friday, he will mix 60-foot throws with some tosses at 90 feet, and on Sunday he will throw from 90 feet.

Carpenter's progress is somewhat ahead of the schedule laid out by Paletta when it was first decided that the right-hander would have surgery. At that time, Paletta estimated that it might be six weeks before Carpenter could throw at all. As of Wednesday, though, it had been four weeks and a day since the operation.

"My understanding was that from the beginning, it all depended on how my elbow reacted from surgery," Carpenter said. "How the swelling went away, how fast the swelling went away, how fast my range [of motion] came back, the soreness that I would have while I was rehabbing and things like that.

"And fortunately, I didn't have any [problems]. My swelling went away quick. My range came back quick. My strength came back quick. I had no soreness in anything we did. So those are all positive things to get you back on track to start throwing."

Weinberg was similarly enthused following the throwing session.

"Thumbs-up day," Weinberg said.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.