ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter's throwing program has stalled this week due to lower back tightness that first surfaced when the right-hander was throwing off the mound on Sunday.
Though Carpenter has been unavailable to speak with the media in recent days, general manager John Mozeliak said the area of tightness is concentrated in Carpenter's lower back. That makes this an issue separate from thoracic outlet syndrome, which kept Carpenter sidelined for most of 2012 and then bothered him again earlier this season.
However, this is not the first episode of back tightness for Carpenter, who has dealt with a similar issue each of the past two seasons. In fact, back tightness preceded the nerve issues that Carpenter dealt with last season. There is some concern that a bulging disc could be the trigger of the pain.
"Going back to Sunday, when he threw his bullpen, he definitely felt his back lock up on him," Mozeliak said. "Now, from a pitching standpoint, the arm is working well. All that is positive. We are now dealing with a lower back issue. Going back 48 hours, I was thinking it was going to be much worse than perhaps it is going to be. But it's still slowing things down. Hopefully we can keep progressing as he continues to work at it. We have to be patient."
The Cardinals are currently seeking additional opinions from area doctors on the back injury, and Mozeliak said the organization expects to have a more firm diagnosis on Friday. From there, it will develop a treatment plan.
"I think what they're trying to do is just strengthen it and allow him to play through," Mozeliak said. "It's not something that rehab is necessarily going to fix. It's still going to be there. Can he stabilize it and work around it to allow himself to go pitch?"
Carpenter had progressed enough to be cleared to throw to batters during the last homestand, and he did so twice. He was expected to continue those sessions this week until this latest setback.
With Carpenter's timetable of recovery unknown, the organization continues to operate under the assumption that the veteran right-hander will not be able to contribute this year. It is a necessary stance to take as the club evaluates potential trade candidates in advance of next month's non-waiver deadline.
"When you think about the trading deadline right now, you sort of approach this club with the thinking that he's not a part of it," Mozeliak said. "In the sense of, he hasn't pitched yet. He could still end up contributing, though I think that's a bonus. I don't think you can really go into the [July] 31st [Trade Deadline] factoring him involved right now."
Cardinals sign 10th-round Draft pick Collymore
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals signed another two members from their 2013 First-Year Player Draft class -- infielder Malik Collymore (10th round) and right-handed pitcher Blake Higgins (16th round) -- on Thursday, increasing the organization's total number of signees to 34.
Higgins was taken out of Jackson Community College in Michigan, while Collymore was discovered while playing in Mississauga, Ontario. The amount of information that the Cardinals were able to gather about Collymore during his final season of high school is a direct byproduct of the organization's focused attempt to increase their presence in Canada.
During a meeting with general manager John Mozeliak after the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Dan Kantrovitz, now in his second year as scouting director, identified Canada as an area where the Cardinals could improve their Draft coverage. That led to the hiring of scout Charles Peterson, who had been working for Major League Baseball's Scouting Bureau. Peterson was assigned to Canada as part of his coverage area.
"We did not just want to know the names of the good players so we could be covered on draft day," Kantrovitz said. "We wanted to be in position to draft the players on draft day. ... With Charles' experience covering Canada for the Scouting Bureau, we wanted somebody that could hit the ground running. We knew this was going to be a relatively strong year in terms of high school players coming out of Canada and wanted to get out in front of that. As soon as we hired Charles, getting a download of the top Canadian kids was one of the first things we did.
"And Malik was always at, or near, the top of his list. Charles has known Malik for a long time, and the relationship he established with the kid and family was key to making this come to fruition. If Charles was not with us, I'm sure we would not have been in position to draft and sign Malik."
Collymore passed on his commitment to play collegiately at the University of Missouri-Columbia in order to jump-start his professional career.
"The Cardinals were pretty straightforward with their offer, and both sides were pretty happy with how the negotiating went," said Collymore, who was in St. Louis to undergo a physical, sign his contract and take a round of batting practice on Thursday. "I was glad the Cardinals took me where they did in a situation I was comfortable with."
Collymore, 18, played the middle infield throughout high school, though he concentrated most heavily at short. He'll report to the Gulf Coast League after he obtains his work visa --- a process that the Cardinals expect to take another 7-10 days -- and will play short, second and center field for that short-season club.
In mid- to late-August, Collymore will leave the GCL Cardinals to join a Canadian national team that is competing in the 18-and-under World Cup. He'll participate in a pretournament camp in Australia, before the World Cup is played in Taiwan from Aug. 30-Sept. 8.
When he returns from the international competition, Collymore will end his season in the Cardinals' Fall Instructional League.
M. Carpenter faithful to plate approach in mini-slump
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter went from streak to slump in a matter of days, but thankfully for the Cardinals second baseman, the latter was short-lived.
His 18-game hitting streak was snapped on June 11, which started a seven-game stretch in which Carpenter went 3-for-26, before he got back on track with a 2-for-4 night on Wednesday.
"Honestly, the two games before tonight, I feel like I hit the ball harder," Carpenter said. "Had nothing to show for it, and I hit some balls soft tonight and got a couple hits. I mean, that's just the way the game goes. You go through stretches. The key to this deal, if you just stick with your approach and ride it out throughout the whole season and never alter from it, I think you'll be happy with the results."
Carpenter is second on the team in hitting entering Thursday's game (.314) , trailing only Yadier Molina, who leads the Majors with a .365 average. Before Wednesday, Carpenter had been without a hit for three straight games, tying his longest stretch of the season.
"Ask anybody that plays this game, it's just inevitable," Carpenter said. "You're going to go through your 0-for-20s, but the key is, can you manage it to where it doesn't steam role and get into a deal where it's a month long. That's the key. You just keep batting and keep going out there and putting together good at-bats."
GM Mozeliak surveying options for Trade Deadline
ST. LOUIS -- General manager John Mozeliak and his baseball operations staff are continually evaluating potential upgrades to the organization. With the non-waiver Trade Deadline sitting just six weeks away, though, expect those discussions only to augment.
Asked about possible areas of improvement for the Cardinals (who entered Thursday sitting at a Major League-best 20 games over .500), Mozeliak said that he expects more clarity over the next few weeks. He chose not to single out any area just yet.
"I don't know what our greatest need is going to be as we get to July 31," Mozeliak said. "I think the good news is, we're playing pretty good baseball, and we have six weeks to sort through that."
The market of available players hasn't settled yet, either, as it will take a few more weeks for many teams to determine whether they intend to buy or sell at the deadline. Once there is lucidity in that realm, teams looking to add will have a better understanding of which players are even available.
• Fernando Salas struck out two in a scoreless inning on Wednesday as he started his Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Memphis. Salas is expected to return to the mound on Saturday. Mozeliak said he would like to see Salas build himself up to pitch multiple innings, so that he can be used as a long reliever when he returns from the disabled list.
• After making three starts for Memphis, Mitchell Boggs has, at his own request, moved back to the bullpen. He pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Triple-A team on Wednesday.
• On Friday, wives of Cardinals players will be selling grab bags with autographed baseballs for $50 at Busch Stadium. All proceeds from the grab-bag fundraiser will benefit Great Circle, a Midwestern agency which provides services to abused and neglected children and also teaches social skills to children with autism.
• With the Rangers coming to town for a series this weekend, Lance Berkman and Kyle McClellan will both be making their return to Busch Stadium for the first time since leaving the Cardinals. The Rangers are scheduled to start Derek Holland (5-4, 3.30 ERA), Martin Perez (0-1, 5.06 ERA) and Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.84 ERA) in the three-game series. The last two games will be shown on national television.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.