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06/30/08 7:23 PM ET

Wainwright cautious as return nears

Cards ace trying to avoid setback with sprained finger

ST. LOUIS -- Adam Wainwright is completely healthy, except for "a stinking little finger."

On the disabled list since June 8 with a sprained middle finger on his pitching hand, Wainwright is making steady progress toward rejoining the Cardinals. On Friday, the right-hander was able to take off a brace and will be re-examined next Monday.

"It feels a lot better," Wainwright said. "I'm out of my splint, I'm able to grip things -- not heavy things -- but able to squeeze soft putty and stuff like that."

Because Wainwright has stuck with his workout regimen, he believes his return to the starting rotation will not take a long time once his finger is healthy.

"Just going to make sure everything is going as planned and make sure everything is structurally sound," Wainwright said. "If it is, and my joints are loosened up like they should be, by that time I should be able to start throwing."

In his absence, though, the Cardinals have survived. In Wainwright's absence, the Cardinals have managed to go 9-9 and have maintained their hold on the second-best record in the National League.

Because of the team's adequate play, Wainwright said there has been less urgency to get back. He won't risk a setback by unnecessarily rushing.

"I'm not going to go ahead of schedule," Wainwright said. "I don't want to have a setback, but I'm definitely not going to take my sweet time."

Lee Hurwitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.