ST. LOUIS -- Brian Fuentes' road to St. Louis took a stop in Springfield, Mo., on Tuesday, where the left-hander tossed a scoreless inning in the first of two scheduled Double-A appearances.
The outing was the third for Fuentes since he signed a Minor League deal with St. Louis on July 14. He was sent first to Florida, where Fuentes pitched two innings for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals. He then left for Springfield so that he could make back-to-back appearances against tougher competition.
Fuentes entered Tuesday's game in the seventh and retired all three batters he faced. He struck out two in the 15-pitch inning.
"I think every step is good right now, just him getting back into it and realizing there is an opportunity here with a whole change of scenery," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said earlier on Tuesday. "And then it's about him executing."
Fuentes is scheduled to pitch in Wednesday's game as well, after which the Cardinals will decide if the left-hander needs more time in the Minors. If not, he could join the Cardinals by the end of the week.
Fuentes has an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to request his release if he is not on the Major League roster by the end of the month. He was released by the A's earlier in July.
Carpenter optimistic as he recovers from surgery
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter made a visit to the Cardinals' clubhouse on Tuesday, one day after he flew home from Dallas, where he underwent neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last Thursday.
While Carpenter is optimistic that the procedure -- which involved the removal of a rib and muscles -- has corrected a persistent nerve issue, it will be several weeks before Carpenter knows whether the surgery truly was a success. He did get an early dose of good news from Dr. Greg Pearl, who told Carpenter that he found nothing unexpected while doing the operation.
"He saw scarring. He saw a lot of entrapment of the nerves," Carpenter said. "He felt good about how he cleaned it up and what he did with it. He's very positive about the outcome. I'm sure we'll know by the end of the season if it worked or not, but the outcome of what he was looking to do was very positive."
Five days after the surgery, Carpenter is still dealing with substantial swelling and soreness.
"It was a lot more pain than I was expecting," Carpenter said. "I think it's going to be fine. I'm excited about it. [Dr. Pearl] is excited about the outcome. It's hard to speak about it now because I'm still swollen and still sore. It's a lot different than any surgery that I've had."
Actually, few pitchers have had the surgery, which means that there is some guesswork in determining a timetable for recovery and the steps to get there.
Carpenter's immediate plan is to allow the swelling and pain to dissipate. He is hopeful that he can begin strengthening exercises on Monday and from there will progress based on feel. Carpenter said he does not know how long it will be before he picks up a baseball, though the Cardinals have estimated the recovery time to be two to three months.
"The things that you have to be concerned about is scar healing, the internal stuff healing and then you move forward," Carpenter said. "I made sure I worked real hard before surgery to work out, keep my arm strong, keep everything as strong as I could so that I was in the best shape going in so coming out I would be as strong as I could and maybe a little ahead of the game when we get into the rehab."
Assuming that estimated recovery time is accurate, Carpenter will be able to follow a normal offseason throwing plan. That would have him on track to be ready for a full Spring Training workload next year. He is under contract with the Cardinals through 2013.
Carpenter does intend to pitch again, though he's also resistant to promising that he will.
"There's always doubt, with everything that I have been through," said Carpenter, who has now had four surgeries since the start of the '03 season. "But I'll do whatever it takes to get out there again."
Triple-A catcher Steven Hill hit a grand slam in Memphis' 9-8 win over Oklahoma City on Monday. What was particularly noteworthy, though, was that it was Hill's second grand slam in as many days. Hill recorded 11 RBIs in the two games combined. He had 17 through his first 47 games.
Tuesday's game-time temperature was expected to be at least 100 degrees, which would mark the seventh time in the Cardinals' past 14 home games that the first pitch has been thrown with the temperature in triple digits. While the heat and lack of rain has altered pregame routines, it has not, manager Mike Matheny said, noticeably affected the field.
"We've had zero complaints and we have some pretty picky guys as far as playing conditions and what the field looks like," Matheny said. "It's been impressive that [head groundskeeper] Bill Findley has kept it in as good shape as it is."
The Cardinals entered Tuesday with eight straight losses to the Dodgers, matching the club's longest losing streak since the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles. St. Louis' previous eight-game losing streak came in 1975-76.
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.