HOUSTON -- One of those fine lines that baseball teams must walk is the difference between when an injury is a "medical decision" and when it's a "baseball decision." If everything goes as hoped, Chris Carpenter may be on the latter side of that line within a few days.
Carpenter hasn't pitched since Sept. 18 after suffering a strained biceps and nerve irritation in his right arm, but he is expected to begin throwing off a mound on Wednesday. Dr. George Paletta, the Cardinals' head team physician, said Monday that if a nerve examination goes well on Tuesday and Carpenter has a successful bullpen session on Wednesday, the righty could be medically cleared to pitch in the World Series -- should the Cardinals advance.
"He's doing much better," Paletta said. "He's gonna get reevaluated tomorrow. We'll repeat his electrical tests. But he's been progressing nicely and a lot of it is gonna hinge on what that shows.
"If it shows that he hasn't taken a step backward, and the nerve is at least as good as it was last week, if not better, then we'll plan to progress him from there, and hopefully at least medically have him ready for what would be the start of the World Series. And then it would be a baseball decision, whether they think he's capable and ready for pitching."
Carpenter has been playing catch for several days. On Monday afternoon, he threw from approximately 60 feet to a catcher in a crouch, though he did not throw off a mound. Dr. Heidi Prather, a neurologist, will examine Carpenter in St. Louis, with the results of those tests determining the next course of action.
"His muscle looks great right now," Paletta said. "It's firing very well and he's got good strength. He's feeling good. But nerves are funny things. Sometimes they can feel good and look good, but electrophysiologically things are going in the wrong direction and that nerve is shutting down again. That's the point at which medically it's not safe for him to continue to try and pitch."
Carpenter was the Cards' most effective starting pitcher during the regular season, going 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA and 152 strikeouts against 38 walks in 182 innings.
Here's a tip: Manager Tony La Russa said he was pleased with the way Jason Marquis pitched in Sunday's Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, though Marquis was removed from the game in the fifth inning. He said that he and pitching coach Dave Duncan believe that Marquis was tipping his pitches against Houston.
Jason Marquis / P
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: R
"I said [to Marquis], 'You know what? That was the best you've been in a long time,'" La Russa said. "I thought he had great control of his emotions. He was missing down. When he was good, I thought, man, we can get deep in the game.
"But they were reading something, or we think they were reading something, because he can't get those guys out. You can't risk it. Dunc is calling every pitch he's throwing. So I told him, we'll go today and tomorrow and fix what we're seeing from the bench and you'll be ready to pitch when we get home."
All about Albert: Most of the attention in the NLCS has gone to Houston's torrid center fielder, Carlos Beltran, and his four homers in four games. However, Albert Pujols has been nearly as hot. Astros manager Phil Garner was asked whether his team intends to take any different approach in order to minimize the danger Pujols presents.
"Well, we haven't made good pitches on him for the most part," Garner said. "When we've made a mistake, he's punished us for it. I think if we can make better pitches more consistently in the areas that we want to, we can have better success.
"He's a good hitter, and he's going to hit pitches, even though you might make good pitches on him. If you make consistently good pitches, I think it's usually to the pitcher's advantage. The approach would be, let's get the pitches where we want to. I don't know that we need to change it other than to say we need to make the pitches that we want to make."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.