Brad Penny recovering from back injury

ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Brad Penny is optimistic he'll pitch again this season. He's just not sure when.

Penny, sidelined since late May with an upper back injury, said Monday he's played catch every day for about a week, but the team has yet to schedule a bullpen session.

"Just playing catch," Penny told The Associated Press. "No changed status for me, at all. I'll be able to tell you something when I find out."

Manager Tony La Russa seemed more enthusiastic than Penny, who's 3-4 with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts. Penny signed a one-year, $7.5 million free agent contract in the offseason and is hungry to return to a rotation bolstered by the trade deadline acqusition of Jake Westbrook.

"I hope so," Penny said. "I'll do everything I can. But like I said, I've got to test it. It's not like when you throw on flat ground, just regular catch."

The opener of a three-game series against the Houston Astros was the 61st game that Penny has missed this season. The Cardinals have also been without Kyle Lohse since late May, filling in with Blake Hawksworth and Jeff Suppan.

Lohse is set to throw his third rehab start coming off forearm surgery on Thursday with Double-A Springfield and could return next week.

La Russa said Penny was definitely not being counted out the rest of the season.

"Yeah, he's making noise," La Russa said. "He's feeling pretty good, but he's a lot of steps away. He definitely isn't done for the season, in his mind or in ours."