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Carpenter progressing, opening day in doubt

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist

JUPITER, Fla. -- Chris Carpenter emerged from Friday's bullpen session well enough that he plans to throw another one Sunday, with a little more intensity.

The Cardinals ace said Saturday that he felt good after throwing roughly 30 fastballs a day earlier, the first time he's thrown from a mound in a couple of weeks because of a bulging disk in his neck. Right now, he said, it's all systems go.

"I'm not concerned about it more than it's more annoying than anything else," Carpenter said Saturday morning of his neck issue. "You deal with it and move on and hope everything gets better sooner or later."

It's doubtful at this point that Carpenter will be ready by opening day. With the Cards' opener at Miami less than three weeks away, he hasn't even pitched one inning of a Grapefruit League game yet.

The Cardinals had planned to back off with Carpenter this spring anyway given his heavy workload last season and advanced age. He led the National League with 237 1/3 innings last summer, then tacked on 36 more in helping lead the Cardinals to the World Series title last October.

The initial plan was to limit his spring workload, anyway. But the neck issue, which started after Carpenter's first live batting practice session of the spring, has ground it to a near halt.

Friday, he threw all fastballs, and not at 100 percent. Sunday, he plans to throw harder and mix in other pitches.

If Sunday's bullpen session goes well, the next step likely will be for him to throw live batting practice so he can face hitters. But there are no current plans for him to see Grapefruit League action.

"I don't know," Carpenter said. "I'm not there yet."

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