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Notes: Rincon on the road to recovery

Notes: Rincon on the road to recovery

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JUPITER, Fla. -- Ricardo Rincon's gradual recovery took another small step forward on Wednesday. Rincon, who missed nearly all of 2006 after undergoing shoulder and elbow surgery, faced hitters for the first time since the operation.

He wasn't as sharp as he can be. It was clearly an early-spring throw. But it was another little piece of good news for the veteran left-hander.

"My shoulder and my elbow are very good," Rincon said after the throw. "I threw every pitch. I threw my sinker, fastball, slider and changeup."

The next question is how Rincon will feel on Thursday, a day after taking the mound. The expectation is that he won't feel anything untoward, but there's no way of knowing until the day comes.

"I'll know tomorrow," he said with a smile. "Maybe tomorrow I'll feel good. I don't know."

Kinney less skinny: Josh Kinney seemed to hold up just fine as the 2006 season went on, considering his exceptional pitching in the postseason. However, Kinney nonetheless took steps over the winter to try to remain stronger over the course of the full season.

The right-hander added a few extra pounds of muscle during the offseason -- roughly five to seven pounds, he said. He looks burlier than last fall, though certainly not overweight, in his first Major League Spring Training.

"I put on some weight, tried to," he said. "I always lose. Some guys gain and some guys lose during the season. I always lose weight during the season. Some years when I would come in light, I would still lose weight during the season, and I got hurt. So I figured this year I would try to lift a little bit and put on some muscle. So I put on a few pounds, five or something, not a whole lot."

New rules: Manager Tony La Russa and members of the Cardinals staff met with some Major League umpires early on Wednesday morning to go over some of MLB's new rules. Among the changes were new guidelines regarding pitchers' gloves, the doctoring of baseballs and the resumption of tie games.

The rules changes that could have the most impact on day-to-day game play, however, regard the pace of the game. Baseball codified some attempts to speed up games, including reducing the amount of time a pitcher has to throw the ball.

"It all made sense," La Russa said. "They've been studying it for a couple years, and they all made sense. I think better tempo is better for hitters, pitchers and fans."

Long odds: Veteran utilityman Jolbert Cabrera provides La Russa with an intriguing option, given his experience at seven positions. Cabrera, 34, has appeared in big league games at every position but pitcher and catcher. He spent the past two years in Japan, but in 2003 and 2004 he played extensively for the Dodgers and Mariners, respectively.

The problem for Cabrera is one of simple numbers. The Redbirds have a slew of bench options, with Aaron Miles and Scott Spiezio in the infield and Preston Wilson, So Taguchi and John Rodriguez in the outfield. So while Cabrera may have a similar value to what Abraham Nunez brought two years ago, he doesn't have the same chance of making the team that Nunez had.

"Nunez, there was a real spot open," La Russa said. "We've got Miles and Spiezio. So it's more just [competing for] one of the few spots. ... His ability to play anywhere is a plus for him."

Cabrera's best season came in 2003 with Los Angeles, when he batted .282 with a .332 on-base percentage, a .438 slugging percentage and 32 doubles in 347 at-bats.

Weather report: It's still gorgeous. Wednesday's high pushed 80 degrees, and it should be similar on Thursday. The forecast calls for a high in the upper 70s, lots of sunshine and fairly mild winds. It's baseball weather.

Coming up: Thursday's workout should start with a stretch at around 9:30 a.m. ET. The remaining veterans who have skipped live batting practice thus far will step in against pitchers -- a group that includes Scott Rolen, David Eckstein, Scott Spiezio, Preston Wilson and Adam Kennedy.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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