KANSAS CITY -- Admitting that he didn't expect his Minor League rehab assignment to be wrapped up quite this quickly, Jon Jay rejoined the Cardinals on Friday after being activated off the 15-day disabled list and inserted into the lineup against the Royals.
Though Jay last played on May 14, the Cardinals received enough encouraging reports about Jay's timing at the plate to feel comfortable reinstating him after only seven Minor League at-bats. Jay recorded three hits -- including a triple and a home run -- in those two games.
It was only a week ago that Jay even began to hit off soft toss.
"I just feel like I've been keeping my mind sharp," said Jay, who was sidelined by a sprained right shoulder. "I've been watching film and paying attention. I knew once I started to feel good that I would be able to come back."
Jay was asked if his shoulder is back to feeling 100 percent.
"I'm feeling good. That's the bottom line," he said. "I'm feeling good enough to where I can contribute."
Jay played center and hit second in his return. Manager Mike Matheny has been looking for a way to spark more production from the top of the lineup, and the hope is that Jay's presence will contribute to that. Jay was batting .343 at the time he went down and he had scored 18 runs in 27 games.
"We miss him and the kind of at-bats he was putting together," Matheny said. "We caught some grief from people about him just playing small ball and every time [Rafael Furcal] getting on, moving him over with a drag [bunt]. But I think we saw that that was a big part of our success, being able to strike early by him just doing the little things right."
C. Carpenter pleased with his Friday workout
KANSAS CITY -- Several hours before the Cardinals opened a series against the Royals, Chris Carpenter took the Kauffman Stadium mound to complete the next step in his recovery from a right shoulder injury.
Five different hitters stood in the batters' box as Carpenter threw about 32 pitches. The live batting practice session marked the first time Carpenter had thrown to hitters since March 18. He was shut down immediately after that Spring Training session due to a nerve issue that limited his shoulder strength.
"I was happy with it," Carpenter said after Friday's work. "I was excited about being out there. I was probably overthrowing at times. The command wasn't exactly what I wished it would be, but I also have to understand that it's my first throw to hitters in three months."
Carpenter approached the live batting practice session with a more specific focus than most pitchers do early in Spring Training. Instead of predetermining what types of pitches he would throw to each batter, Carpenter approached hitters as he would in a game at-bat.
As he simulated game situations, Carpenter mixed in both fastballs and breaking pitches. Taking such a pointed approach will, Carpenter hopes, expedite the rehab process.
"Because of the time of the year, you're going to analyze it a little bit more and hope for more," Carpenter said. "You want to cut whatever you can out to get back as soon as you can."
Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist were among those who observed the session.
"I just thought he looked very comfortable on the mound," Matheny said. "His offspeed [stuff] had a good bite to it. He was smooth with his delivery. I thought all in all, he looked good."
Carpenter will repeat the exercise on Monday, after which the organization will determine what's next in his rehab schedule. There's a chance that, following that session, Carpenter will be cleared to begin a Minor League rehab assignment. If that's the case, Carpenter's recovery would be moving into the final phase by the end of the month.
Carpenter, as well as Matheny, would not speculate that far ahead. They also haven't set -- at least publicly -- a minimum number of Minor League appearances that Carpenter would need before rejoining the Cardinals.
"I'm hoping I can throw Monday and everything is good and we can move from there," Carpenter said. "But that's not my call. I don't want to get ahead of the whole thing because I don't want to get let down."
Carpenter, who has had no setbacks since resuming a throwing program earlier this month, reiterated that his strength continues to test at the level it did before this injury. The process now is intended to increase endurance and further refine the right-hander's pitches.
Craig sits as M. Carpenter returns from DL
KANSAS CITY -- Matt Carpenter's return from the disabled list on Friday gave manager Mike Matheny an ideal opportunity to give Allen Craig and his sore left wrist the night off.
Craig jammed his wrist in Wednesday's win when he made a diving attempt in the outfield. Though Craig served as the team's designated hitter on Thursday, he did so while still dealing with soreness from that impact. Craig finished 0-for-5 in the game.
Out of the starting lineup for the first time since June 2, Craig was available off the bench on Friday against the Royals.
With Craig needing the break, Carpenter was the obvious choice to start at first. Carpenter returned from a Minor League rehab assignment in time for the series opener. He played in six Minor League games, logging time at both corner infield and corner outfield spots.
Carpenter, who suffered his right oblique injury exactly a month ago, finished the stint 4-for-17. Three of those hits came on Thursday, when he also drove in three and scored twice in Double-A Springfield's game.
"My first six or seven at-bats, I have to be honest ... the intensity probably wasn't there like it should have been," Carpenter said. "I think the timing of it really worked out well. It just got better and better, and yesterday was probably the best I've felt both physically and with my results. I feel 100 percent now."
Beltran would like Home Run Derby spot
KANSAS CITY -- Carlos Beltran's at-bat in the first inning on Friday marked his first at Kauffman Stadium since June 24, 2004, when he was still wearing Royal blue. He went 1-for-4 in a Kansas City loss that day and found out later that evening that he had been traded to the Astros.
Beltran has been anticipating this homecoming -- to a place where he played for six-and-a-half years -- since he found out a trip to Kansas City was on the schedule. Beltran was received mostly positively by a divided Cardinals-Royals crowd when he stepped up for that first plate appearance -- the first of two two-run doubles in his his first two at-bats.
This is unlikely, however, to be Beltran's only visit to Kansas City this year. The right fielder is currently in position to be one of three starting outfielders for the National League in the All-Star Game. Kauffman Stadium is hosting the event on July 10.
"If it happens, it's going to be a great moment for me," said Beltran, a six-time All-Star. "Just being able to come back as an All-Star and being able to represent my league. It's going to be emotional."
Beltran also disclosed on Friday that he would be agreeable to participating in the State Farm Home Run Derby, if asked. Beltran has never taken part in the event before.
"I'm not really thinking about that, but that's something that I've never done," Beltran said. "If they approach me, I will think about it. I think it would be fun."
NL Derby captain Matt Kemp of the Dodgers is responsible for choosing the three other league participants. Beltran had 19 home runs, which ranked second in the NL entering Friday's action. Milwaukee's Ryan Braun was the leader with 20.
The Cardinals needed to open two roster spots in order to clear space for Matt Carpenter and Jay to return from the disabled list. The club did so by optioning first baseman Matt Adams and outfielder Adron Chambers to Triple-A Memphis on Friday.
There was a point last month where the Cardinals had eight players on the DL. With two more now off, that list is down to four. Chris Carpenter has been there since the start of the season. Kyle McClellan (right elbow strain) and Lance Berkman (right knee injury) suffered their injuries in May. Jaime Garcia was shut down with a left shoulder sprain the first week of this month.
Matheny said that Berkman is expected to return to St. Louis "soon" to continue his rehab program. The Cards are also looking forward to having his loud personality back in a clubhouse that has turned much more subdued recently. Berkman is still not expected back on the field until late July/early August.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.