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03/17/12 6:15 PM ET

Schumaker's oblique injury could be trouble

Matheny says it's worse than one sustained during 2011 NLDS

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said before Saturday's contest with the Tigers that it appears Skip Schumaker's right oblique injury may be worse than the one he sustained during Game 5 of the 2011 National League Division Series.

"It's possible it is worse than that one, so we have to wait and see," Matheny said.

Matheny said the organization will wait until Monday before having Schumaker take an MRI on the strained muscle area.

"It's not the type of injury where we have to rush him into one, because we already know what he's dealing with," Matheny said. "The biggest thing for him to do now is rest and recover."

Schumaker left Friday's game early after sustaining the injury during his fourth-inning at-bat. He had little to say about the injury postgame, but he did characterize it as worse than the strain he endured last fall.

That injury kept Schumaker off the NL Championship Series roster. He did return to play in the World Series.

Matheny said reading players and their tendencies is one of the things he is learning as a first-year manager. On Friday, he voiced disappointment about not stepping in to perhaps prevent the injury. One pitch before Schumaker felt his side really tighten, Matheny noticed Schumaker grab at the area.

"I asked if he was all right, and he told me that he was," Matheny said. "My gut told me that he wasn't, and [I] let him [keep hitting]. That made it worse. Neither of us did the right thing."

Schumaker, who was the designated hitter in the game, ended up grounding out. He was pinch-hit for in his next at-bat.

"I'm still learning all their idiosyncrasies up close," Matheny said. "I've watched them all, obviously, for a while. But there are guys that [wince] every time they take a swing. But that one, I saw it, and I didn't follow through."

Matheny said oblique injuries are difficult to place an exact timeline for recovery on, so it is "tough to determine when he might return" to any type of activity, let alone a game.

Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn missed nearly two months with an oblique strain last season. Matheny noted that he was out a month when he sustained one during his playing career.

Schumaker was in the middle of a three-way competition for the starting second-base job. He had also been getting regular work in the outfield in case he ended up in a utility bench role.

Matheny confident Carp will pitch soon

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he's confident he will see ace right-hander Chris Carpenter pitch in a game soon after Carpenter smiled following his bullpen session Friday.

"You don't get a smile out of him often, so when he does flash one, it's a pretty good sign," Matheny said.

Carpenter tossed 30 pitches -- all fastballs -- in the bullpen session with catcher Steven Hill on Friday, 13 days after his last one.

Matheny hadn't talked with Carpenter on Saturday morning, but the Cardinals manager anticipates Carpenter throwing one more session on Sunday before the St. Louis staff determines the next step, including when his first Grapefruit League action could be.

Carpenter returned to the mound after reporting no neck stiffness during back-to-back days of throwing off flat ground. He estimated that he threw at 70-75 percent effort on Friday.

"I felt good," Carpenter said on Friday. "The neck feels good. My arm feels good. Hopefully, the next step [will be] either we do that again in a day or so, or we do some live [batting practice] to try and move it in the right direction."

As it concerns his neck, Carpenter's attention has now turned from treatment to strengthening work so that he can decrease the chances of stiffness becoming an issue again. Carpenter said that the club had initially indicated that he would likely undergo a second MRI to see if the bulging disk had moved back into place. That MRI has, at this point, not been scheduled.

Garcia gets pitch count up against Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. -- After cruising through the first three innings against the Tigers in his third spring start, Jaime Garcia was knocked around in the fourth by a lethal Detroit offense on Saturday. After giving up three runs in the frame, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny had Garcia go back out to pitch in the fifth before relieving him following a one-out double surrendered to Austin Jackson.

Garcia allowed four runs on five hits and three walks.

"That's a very good lineup, so you can't make mistakes against one like that," said Garcia, who had two strikeouts.

In the fourth, Garcia allowed a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera before surrendering an RBI triple to Prince Fielder and a run-scoring double to Delmon Young.

Despite the damage, Garcia was happy with tossing 60 pitches (33 strikes).

"Physically, I feel good," said Garcia, who anticipates having two more starts before the end of Spring Training. "I feel like I'm ready for the regular season already. I'm throwing all my pitches with ease."

Matheny puts Spanish minor to good use

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny spent some time before Saturday's contest against the Tigers to discuss his education at the University of Michigan and how it has paid dividends during his managerial career.

Matheny, who was drafted in the eighth round of the 1991 First-Year Player Draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, said he was appreciative of Bill Freehan, the head coach of the Wolverines, for many words of advice that have helped Matheny as a manager.

One piece of wisdom has helped make the communication process with the Latin players quite easy.

"He called me into his office one day and said, 'If you're going to be in this game for a long time, even after your playing days, you need to change all your electives to learning Spanish,'" said Matheny, who majored and received a degree in sports management and communication with a minor in Spanish.

Matheny said he surprised his assistants the other day with his bilingual skills when he had to inform Maikel Cleto, a pitcher from the Dominican Republic who speaks limited English, that he had been sent down to Minor League camp.

"When I started speaking Spanish to him, all my coaches kind of looked at me a bit stunned," Matheny said.

All kidding aside, though, Matheny said the players look kindly on the fact their manager has the ability to communicate with them in their native tongue.

"They appreciate I'm willing to take the steps to do so," said Matheny.

Holliday in a groove this spring

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matt Holliday has gotten off to a hot start this spring, and he's impressed Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. Holliday went 1-for-3 and belted his second home run of the Grapefruit League season on Saturday.

"Spring is a time to get your swing right for the regular season, and he apparently is already there," Matheny said. "Now it's a matter of maintaining it."

Holliday, who is now batting .474 this spring, has been on a roll of late with hits in six consecutive games. Over this period, Holliday has gone 9-for-17 with four RBIs. The last time Holliday had a batting average below .300 in Spring Training was in 2006.

Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.