Carpenter better in bullpen session, says he needs at least 2 more

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter increased the effort in his second bullpen session on Friday, but the 2005 NL Cy Young winner may not return before Sept. 1 when rosters can be expanded.

Carpenter, a 21-game winner in 2005, is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list because of a strained shoulder on Tuesday. He said he'll probably need at least two more bullpen sessions before he will be cleared to return. On Sunday, he plans to try throwing closer to 100 percent to mimic his normal pre-game routine. He has been told he needs to duplicate that effort.

If all goes well Sunday, Carpenter said he would throw in the bullpen either Tuesday or Wednesday in what could be his final test.

Carpenter is a key to the Cardinals' playoff hopes. He was 0-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his first three starts this season after returning from the reconstructive elbow surgery that knocked him out after opening day in 2007. The Cardinals want him to stay in the rotation once they bring him back again.

"He'll start when he's ready," manager Tony La Russa said. "I just know we're going to get him ready as soon but as safe as we can."

Carpenter said he threw 50 pitches and long-toss beforehand, and mixed breaking balls into the test.

"We're going to do it again on Sunday, do a little more and a little harder," Carpenter said. "My arm felt fine. It's just a progression of intensity and volume.

"I didn't air it out today."

Carpenter said the Cardinals have not mentioned a rehab assignment and he said he didn't think he would need one.