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05/04/09 8:24 PM ET

Carpenter takes step forward, plays catch

Cards righty hopes to throw off mound in next 6-8 days

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter played catch on Monday for the first time since he sustained a left oblique muscle nearly three weeks ago, and he hopes to throw off a mound within the next six to eight days.

Any optimism must be cautious optimism as Carpenter recovers from a left oblique strain that has sidelined him for nearly three weeks. Still, Carpenter took a noteworthy step forward, and he was clearly excited about his progress as he spoke with reporters on Monday afternoon. He met with Dr. George Paletta earlier in the day, was cleared to begin throwing, and played catch at distances up to 120 feet.

"We're going to take it day-by-day," Carpenter said. "There's no set throwing schedule or anything like that, or throwing program. I'm just going to go out and play catch and keep stretching out. As my arm gets stretched out and feeling better, hopefully sometime this weekend or the beginning of next week I'll be able to throw some balls off the mound if everything feels well."

According to Carpenter, his arm strength is very good even after the time on the shelf. He was pleased with how the ball came out of his hand.

"You pick up a ball," Carpenter said, "you haven't thrown in 2 1/2 weeks, [and you wonder] how is it going to feel? And it didn't feel like I hadn't thrown in 2 1/2 weeks. It felt good."

It's unclear how exactly Carpenter's program will go once he begins throwing off a mound. He said he was uncertain whether, or for how long, he would need to go on a Minor League rehabilitation assignment.

For the time being, he's just thrilled to be getting closer to where he wants to be. Carpenter said he feels discomfort only at the very extremes of his range of motion.

"I still feel a little bit, definitely with rotational stuff," he said. "But that's going to come with getting stronger. I tore a muscle in there. I've got to get that strength back and that mobility back of rotating and doing those things. We've been doing that in the training room, and it's also going to come through throwing.

"As long as you don't push it too hard, you have no concern and nothing to worry about. I plan on not doing that. I plan on going out and throwing to what I can throw, and taking each day one day at a time. I'll get off the mound as soon as I can."

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