ST. LOUIS (AP) -Chris Carpenter pushed himself Wednesday in his second bullpen session since elbow surgery, a 50-pitch workout that brought the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner another step closer to returning to the pitching-starved St. Louis Cardinals.
``He might have taken a step and a half today,'' said manager Tony La Russa, who sat next to GM Walt Jocketty and watched from the bullpen bench. ``He's just feeling really good, and he's had no setbacks.''
Left-hander Mark Mulder also threw in the bullpen several hours before the Cardinals played the Kansas City Royals, but at a lower intensity level. Mulder is rehabbing from rotator cuff surgery last September.
The Cardinals, last in the NL with a 5.08 ERA, have three former relievers in a banged-up rotation.
Bone spurs were shaved from Carpenter's elbow on May 8, and the team estimated a three-month recovery. He had been scheduled to increase his intensity on Saturday and throw at about 75 percent effort on Wednesday, but the life on his fastball indicated a much higher percentage.
``Today I felt normal, which is a great thing,'' Carpenter said. ``From first throw to last throw I felt normal, and that's something for me that is exciting.''
The right-hander, who won 21 games in 2005 and 15 games last year, said he'll guard against over-enthusiasm. He said the same thing in Oakland after throwing off the mound Sunday for the first time since surgery.
``I feel normal,'' he said. ``But it's still a process.''
La Russa was cautious, too, waiting to see how Carpenter feels Thursday.
``He put a lot into it,'' La Russa said. ``So we'll see how he comes out of it.''
Carpenter said he'll throw breaking balls in his next session, but was unsure of the timetable after that. He was certain, however, that he'd need a minor league rehab assignment before returning, given that he hasn't pitched since opening day.
He'll lean on the expertise of medical personnel, La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan, to decide how much work he needs.
``I'm going to have to see some hitters, I would think,'' Carpenter said. ``How many and how long I'm going to do that, that's up to Dunc and Tony.''

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