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05/06/05 11:18 PM ET

Notes: Isringhausen tests muscle

Closer hopes to return from abdominal strain Thursday

ST. LOUIS -- Jason Isringhausen isn't feeling any discomfort when sneezing or coughing, so Cardinals fans can breathe a little easier about the team's closer, who has been on the disabled list since April 27 with a right abdominal strain.

"I can sneeze and cough and everything, and I don't feel anything anymore," Isringhausen said. "That's what they were worried about -- when I could do all the normal things without them hurting, and then we could start pushing it."

Isringhausen put his injured abdominal muscle to the test Friday afternoon, long-tossing for about 25 throws and then throwing 17 pitches off the mound. Isringhausen said he went about 50 percent and threw mostly fastballs, a couple of cutters and a curveball.

"It felt fine again today. I long-tossed again and threw 17 pitches on the side (on the mound). I'll do it again Sunday and then again on Tuesday," said Isringhausen, who is eligible to come off the disabled list Thursday. "I didn't feel anything, so we'll go to the next step. Just keep pushing it and pushing it and make sure I'm ready."

Isringhausen also long-tossed on Thursday, but he says throwing off the mound was much more of a test because throwing downhill puts more stress on his abdominal muscle.

Isringhausen will increase his pitch counts and effort on Sunday and Tuesday, and then he hopes to be ready on Thursday. With the way it felt Friday, Isringhausen is feeling good about his progress.

"I'll be ready to go (on Thursday)," said Isringhausen, who also notes that it will be up to other people to make that decision.

Thompson in heaven: A long delay in Dallas withstanding, pitcher Brad Thompson arrived in time for the game Thursday night to get a taste of the big leagues for the first time.

Thompson got to Busch Stadium around 6:20 p.m. for the 7:10 game, put on his uniform, played catch in the outfield with left-handed reliever Bill Pulsipher and went to the bullpen. That was quite a whirlwind tour for the 23-year-old right-hander, whose ability to get ground balls with his sinker is perhaps his best asset.

"Coming in here was just amazing," said Thompson, who is in just his third professional season. "Everybody was saying, 'Hello, congratulations,' all these guys that I've been watching on TV."

Thompson arrived in St. Louis after about a two-hour delay in Dallas, along with Pulsipher, who was activated from the disabled list before Thursday's game. The two had been in Omaha on Wednesday night playing for Triple-A Memphis when Thompson got the news.

"I was actually laying in bed and the manager calls me downstairs to the hotel, and he told me," Thompson said. "It just came out of the blue. I definitely didn't think it was going to happen. I didn't even think I was on the radar for that right now, but I'm excited."

Several of Thompson's friends were also pretty excited. When Thompson was waiting it out in Dallas, he spent plenty of time taking congratulatory calls.

"Friends, family, guys I haven't talked to in forever, my college coach, my scout, a lot of people," said Thompson, who was 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA in nine relief appearances for Memphis. "I don't know (how they found out), but it was great to hear from them all."

Thompson has certainly been heard from before, particularly after making some history last season in the Minor Leagues.

While pitching for Double-A Tennessee in 2004, Thompson -- a 16th-round selection by St. Louis in the June 2002 First-Year Player Draft -- set a Southern League record for consecutive scoreless innings (49). He did not allow a run until his eighth start on May 19. Dating back to the 2003 season, Thompson had a scoreless streak of 57 2/3 innings, just 1 1/3 innings short of Irving Wilhelm's Minor-League record of 59 in 1907.

Thompson was a starter last season, but was asked to move to the bullpen in Spring Training to increase his chances of getting to the big leagues. Here he is, and Thompson's loving every bit of it.

"Whatever they need me to do, I'm happy to do it," said Thompson, who had a hard time keeping a smile off his face before Friday's game.

"I'm pretty excited. Yesterday was just kind of a dream."

More so: With left-hander Darrell May on the mound Friday, So Taguchi started in right field for Larry Walker, who played Thursday night after missing three games with a sore groin. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa says Walker is fine, but he gave him off Friday so he can play day games Saturday and Sunday.

As much as Walker is getting a day off, Taguchi is also quite deserving of the playing time. He is batting .324 with two home runs and 10 RBIs, including .400 (6-for-15) against left-handed pitching.

Catcher Einar Diaz also got the start in place of Yadier Molina on Friday. It was the second straight game that Diaz was catching Jeff Suppan, but La Russa says there was no pattern to that.

"As we play Diaz, he'll catch everybody," La Russa said.

Quick hits: The Cardinals presented former St. Louis pitcher Woody Williams with his National League championship ring before Friday's game, and the current Padres pitcher received a loud ovation from the crowd and hugs from many of his former teammates. Williams pitched for St. Louis from August 2001 through last season. ... The Cardinals entered the weekend with an 18-9 record. The last time they started the season with that same record was 1982 -- the year they won their last World Series.

On deck: Righty Chris Carpenter goes for his fifth win of the season on Saturday, taking the hill for the third game of a four-game series with the Padres.

Alan Gerdes is a contributor to MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.