JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -Cardinals starter Mark Mulder took another positive step in his rehabilitation Saturday, facing hitters for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in September.
Mulder threw batting practice to minor leaguers Oliver Marmol, Allen Craig and Daniel Descalso on a back field before the Cardinals game against the Twins. The left-hander threw 30 pitches.
``He made a bunch of big throws,'' manager Tony La Russa said. ``Considering it's the first time out there against hitters it's even more impressive.
``It's all coming together so far.''
Mulder was more pleased with the final 15 pitches.
``I came away very happy,'' he said. ``If I would have thrown all of them the way I started I probably wouldn't have been real happy with it. The way I felt at the end, I was pleased with that.''
The Cardinals remain hopeful Mulder can return to the rotation by early May.
La Russa was joined by general manager John Mozeliak, assistant general manager John Abbamondi, pitching coach Dave Duncan, injured pitcher Chris Carpenter, closer Jason Isringhausen and others as interested observers of Mulder.
Mulder is recovering from two shoulder surgeries that have limited him to 20 starts the last two seasons. He had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in September of 2006 and made three starts in 2007 before needing a second operation on a portion of the cuff that did not heal.
``When it happens it happens,'' Mulder said. ``I came away from today feeling real good about it but I also know through this whole process I'd have two good throws and the third one I'd come away not happy because it wasn't good.''
Mulder will throw batting practice to minor leaguers at least twice more before getting into games. He will remain in Jupiter when the team travels north to face its Double-A Springfield affiliate Friday.
``I just think he's looking more like himself,'' La Russa said. ``He physically feels real good. You just got to take step after step and not rush the process.''

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