JUPITER, Fla. -- Chris Carpenter threw 20 pitches off a mound for the second time on Wednesday.
It's another baby step in a laborious process for the St. Louis Cardinals' ace, rehabbing from reconstructive elbow surgery. Carpenter, who won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005 and is 51-18 in his three healthy seasons in St. Louis, isn't expected to help a tattered rotation until the middle of the summer.
"I think he looks like he's right where he should be at this point," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "He's making good progress, but it is what it is.
"In his case, you've got to put the time in."
Carpenter has put in a lot of time over the years, missing most of 2002 and all of 2003 following shoulder surgery, missing the 2004 playoffs because of a biceps injury and pitching only on opening day last season before the elbow knocked him down.
Once again, he's on the mend.
"That's the way the game is," Carpenter said. "Unfortunately, I've had some injury issues in my career, and no, it's not hard to stay patient. Because I've been through it I know what it takes to get back and I'm going to do everything I can."
Which isn't a whole lot right now. Carpenter said he's throwing at 60 percent effort and only fastballs.
So, while he's happy to be progressing there's little sense of relief. It's way too early for that.
"I think it's going to get different when we start upping the intensity and the quantity," Carpenter said. "It's on a line and it's going in there nice with an occasional little pop in the mitt.
"I'm not firing it, but it's hard enough for right now, and I've been recovering fine and as long as that continues to progress, everything will fall into place."
Carpenter is the biggest name in a group of talented, on-the-mend pitchers for the Cardinals. Mark Mulder might make his debut in May following shoulder surgery and Matt Clement and Joel Pineiro could miss early starts.
Adam Wainwright and Braden Looper are the only members of the projected rotation set for the start of the season, with swingmen Todd Wellemeyer, Brad Thompson and Anthony Reyes, coming off a 2-14 season, likely to fill the last three spots.
Prospects Kyle McClellan, Clayton Mortensen and Mike Parisi also could be in the mix. The Cardinals were impressed with Parisi's improved breaking ball in an intersquad game on Tuesday and Mortensen will get second start of the spring on Friday against the Dodgers.
"I hope when the time comes and me and Mark are ready, they're going to have a lot of decisions to make," Carpenter said. "Hopefully these guys are throwing the ball well enough that they're going to be like 'Wow, what are we going to do now?"'
In Carpenter's case, that's a long ways off. The next test is 20 more pitches on a back field on Friday.
"I've told you all along I go one day at a time, and hopefully I can do it the next time," Carpenter said. "I haven't spun a breaking ball, haven't done anything like that.
"When I start getting closer we'll talk about timetables and time frames but right now I'm not concerned about it."