Joel Pineiro was cleared to begin playing catch on Friday, and Mark Mulder threw another extremely encouraging bullpen session. Matt Clement, meanwhile, caught notice of the team's staff with an excellent live batting practice session on Thursday.
"You put all that together, and this is starting to look like a pretty good rotation at some point during the season," general manager John Mozeliak said on Friday morning.
Pineiro had not thrown a ball since Sunday, when he cut short a bullpen session due to persistent discomfort below his right shoulder. He went four days without throwing a ball, then met with the team's medical staff on Friday morning. While neither Mozeliak nor head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg had any detailed information on Pineiro's situation, it was a sign of progress that he could throw a ball at all.
"He feels great, from what I've heard," Mozeliak said. "But obviously he's not throwing every five days, so that's a concern. And until he's at that point, you can never ignore it. I'm glad that he's feeling good, and we're happy to hear that. But at some point we've got to see him be part of that rotation."
Mulder, meanwhile, is being brought along very slowly in his recuperation from shoulder surgery last September. His plan remains in the hands of the medical staff, rather than the coaching staff, but he's getting ever closer. Mulder has begun attempting to locate his pitches, rather than only focusing on getting the ball down in the strike zone.
"The way he's throwing, you can start seeing an end to this rehab and a beginning to getting him ready to pitch," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "He's moving the ball around, getting his breaking ball over the plate."
The Cardinals dream of having a situation where they actually have too much starting pitching, though such a scenario is far off. For now, new signee Kyle Lohse steps into a rotation that includes Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper, hopefully Pineiro and a competition for the last spot.
Mulder is expected back in May, while Clement should pitch in the Major Leagues sometime in April. Mozeliak said Friday that he believes Clement will pitch in Grapefruit League games before the Cards break camp. However, no game is yet scheduled for Clement.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.