Garcia at least 6 weeks from rejoining Cardinals

Garcia at least 6 weeks from rejoining Cardinals

ST. LOUIS -- Though lefty Jaime Garcia took another small step forward on Friday by facing hitters for the first time since March 24, the Cardinals don't expect him to factor into their Major League plans for at least six more weeks.

That projection came from general manager John Mozeliak, who likened Garcia's live batting-practice session on Friday to the one pitchers throw the second week of Spring Training. Garcia, who is battling left shoulder inflammation, will keep building up from there, throwing another live BP session on Monday and then either throwing an additional one midweek or appearing in an extended spring training game.

Garcia threw an estimated 20-25 pitches on Friday and will target the same pitch count on Monday. The report Mozeliak received afterward noted that Garcia "felt good" throughout the exercise.

Once Garcia is cleared to pitch in games, the Cardinals will limit his appearances to extended spring training play for at least a few weeks. The club will have more flexibility that way, as sending Garcia out to a minor league affiliate for a rehab assignment would come with a 30-day limit.

As long as Garcia can build up the arm strength, the Cardinals continue to view the lefty as part of their starting depth and not a likely bullpen option.

"You're always looking for depth, and candidly, you look at how he threw in Spring Training before he did have to take a timeout," Mozeliak said. "He was throwing the ball quite well. … His goal is to come back as a starter, and that's what we're going to work towards."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB and like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.