Cards' Mulder throws six scoreless innings in second rehab start

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals left-hander Mark Mulder, trying to come back from two shoulder operations, pitched six scoreless innings for Double-A Springfield on Sunday in his second rehabilitation outing.

Manager Tony La Russa, while impressed with Mulder's outing from a numbers standpoint, said it's far too soon to discuss what to do about the rotation when he's ready. Mulder made his first start for Class-A Palm Beach and could make his third start on Friday for Triple-A Memphis, but could need two more outings to show the team he's ready.

Mulder allowed three hits, walked three and struck out one, and needed only 76 pitches while facing Tulsa. He also picked off two runners at first.

"When somebody gets really close is when you think about it, because otherwise you're just wasting your time," La Russa said. "Nobody knows what the circumstances are going to be when any of those guys come back.

"Things change daily here, and if you've got nothing else to think about and you want to waste your time you can do it."

Mulder has been limited to 20 starts in the majors over the last two seasons. He could rejoin the St. Louis rotation after one more rehab start, although the team could elect to have him make a fourth rehab start.

He made only three starts last year before undergoing a second surgery in September, going 0-3 with a 12.27 ERA, and was 6-7 with a 7.14 ERA in 2006.

Before 2006, Mulder won 15 or more games five consecutive seasons for Oakland and St. Louis.

He's one of three front-line starters expected to join the team at some point this season. Matt Clement is rehabbing from shoulder surgery in 2006 and Chris Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young award winner, is expected back in July after reconstructive elbow surgery in July 2007.

La Russa said both Mulder and Carpenter would rejoin the rotation when they're ready, and that neither would be considered for relief roles.

Reliever Russ Springer, eligible to be activated from the 15-day DL on Monday following a nerve problem in his elbow that caused him to lose feeling and strength in his fingers, will throw to batters instead on that day in Milwaukee at the start of a four-game trip.

Springer, one of the bullpen's key setup men, said he felt fine on Sunday after throwing to six or seven hitters a day earlier.

"They said they didn't want to bring me back and feel like they had to put me in some non-pressure situations first," Springer said. "They want to put me right back in the role I was in.

"I just told them I'll be ready whenever they want me and I've got my glove in my bag."

Infielder Brendan Ryan, rehabbing from a pulled ribcage muscle in spring training, was 2-for-4 and is batting .400 (6-for-15) with a home run and three doubles in three games at Springfield. He's 9-for-27 (.333) overall in six games, the first three for Class-A Palm Beach.