St. LOUIS -- Everyone else can worry about and wonder why the Cardinals are struggling the way they are right now, but panic is something manager Mike Matheny will stay far away from.
St. Louis has lost 12 of its last 18 games entering Wednesday and has again dropped to .500. While the wins aren't coming regularly for Matheny and Co., the Cardinals' manager believes it's simply a matter of time before his club finds a way to play up to its capabilities.
"I was just talking to one of the coaches, and I don't know if there's anything wrong with me, but I'm not panicked," Matheny said on Wednesday. "Maybe I'm not smart enough, I don't know. You guys tell me, 'cause I'm getting that from everybody. People on the street come up and tell me everything's going to be OK. I'm like, 'Are you kidding me?' Look at our team. We've got a good team, and a lot of good baseball to play. I appreciate the sentiment, but don't give us pity.
"We're in a spot where we're not playing the baseball we want to play, but we're about to make a bunch of people pay," Matheny continued. "Call me naïve, call me overly optimistic, say what you will ... but that's the way I feel. I could sit here and probably conjure up some panic if that would make anything better, and if I thought it would help us, I probably would try it. But I just don't believe it will."
Matheny said he's met with players, both in groups and individually, throughout the season to get a gauge on how everyone is feeling. And while he tries to set the tone for what needs to be done during those one-on-one meetings, Matheny believes there's also a chemistry within the team that drives the players.
"It really comes down to everybody understanding that we've got a lot of talent around here," Matheny said. "It's just a matter of us getting together and putting together a good run. We really haven't been on to what I believe this team can do. I can say it 'till I'm blue in the face, but I think these guys are going to buy into it."
While his club has struggled, the first-year manager has stayed even-keel and consistent in his mood and approach. He said he would expect his team to be watching him closely to see how he handles the adversity.
"I'm not gonna try and fake the fact that everything's fine, because it's not. We do have some urgency here," Matheny said. "We want to play better baseball. And I start with me, that's where it's got to start. ... What do I need to do? In general, I want to be the same guy; that's what I wanted to do as a player, that's what I want to do as a father and a husband. It really kind of defines you how you handle how things go when they're not going exactly how you want them."
"I wake up in the morning not thinking about how we just lost," Matheny said. "I truly wake up excited about how we're gonna get something going in a really nice direction soon. Call me what you will."
Carp throws off mound for first time since injury
ST. LOUIS -- Injured Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter threw off a mound on Wednesday for the first time in his recovery from nerve irritation in his right shoulder. Carpenter said he threw 26 pitches -- all fastballs -- at about 85-percent effort.
"It was just fun to get back up there and start moving in the right direction," Carpenter said. "Hopefully we can continue to progress the way it's been progressing and see what happens."
Carpenter had not been on a mound since March 3, when he threw a live batting-practice session during Spring Training. He complained of neck stiffness afterward, which prompted additional doctor visits to determine the issue. He didn't resume throwing until recently, when he began to play light catch and long toss.
"The progress is good, so every time you move forward, it's an exciting thing," Carpenter said. "But you also want to hold back a little, just because you don't want to get too carried away on how you're feeling and what you're doing."
Carpenter and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny agreed there is no set timetable for either Carpenter's return date or the next step in his recovery. Carpenter said he's currently approaching his rehab similar to the way in which he builds up his arm prior to the start of Spring Training.
That includes throwing off the mound every other day, while slowly increasing his amount of effort, number of pitches and types of pitches thrown.
Asked if the Spring-Training timeline is likely to fit this mid-summer rehab program, Carpenter stressed that he hasn't thought that far into his recovery.
"I feel strong. I feel good," Carpenter said. "The ball's coming out fine. Now, we just need to progress slowly but surely, and hopefully there is nothing that gets affected afterward."
Carpenter said he'll see how he fares this week as he continues his side work, and he will determine his next step from there.
"We've been getting positive [reports] from all those workouts and every step that he's taken. That's always positive," Matheny said. "But again, trying not to put too much pressure on him -- that one thing means anything on a timeline. We just want him to continue to get better and get him back as quick as we can."
La Russa to take full '11 staff to All-Star Game
ST. LOUIS -- Former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will take his full 2011 St. Louis coaching staff with him to Kansas City next month, where La Russa will manage the National League in the All-Star Game on July 10 at Kauffman Stadium.
That announcement was made on Wednesday, when La Russa unveiled his coaching-staff selections. Current Cardinals coaches Derek Lilliquist, Mark McGwire and Jose Oquendo will be a part of that All-Star staff. So, too, will Dave Duncan, Dave McKay and Joe Pettini, all of whom departed, like La Russa, over the winter.
Duncan is on a leave of absence to care for his wife, who has been battling brain cancer. McKay (Cubs) and Pettini (Astros) have since joined other organizations.
"It's very unexpected when you get into coaching to think that you'll be back in an All-Star Game," said McGwire, a 12-time All-Star as a player. "It's a great thing, because you know you've been in the World Series. It's great enough to be in the World Series, but to get a present the next year by going to the All-Star Game is a really cool thing."
La Russa's All-Star staff will also include Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Mets manager Terry Collins, both having been chosen by La Russa.
La Russa will be serving as an All-Star Game manager for the sixth time in his career, a total surpassed only by three Hall of Famers -- Casey Stengel (10), Walter Alston (9) and Joe McCarthy (7). This will be the third time La Russa will manage the game in a Cardinals uniform.
Schumaker begins rehab stint with Memphis
ST. LOUIS -- Skip Schumaker began a rehab stint with Triple-A Memphis on Wednesday in the first major step in his recovery from a right hamstring he injured on May 30.
Schumaker played five innings in center field and went 1-for-2 with a single and run scored for Memphis. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said on Wednesday that Schumaker was anxious to be playing again, and after Schumaker ran well in a workout with trainers on Tuesday, the club decided to give Schumaker an opportunity to play.
"That was the one test they wanted to get, and he didn't feel like he had anything more to prove except to get in there and play," Matheny said. "So they've got kind of a program lined up for him, as far as playing time goes, to get him back as quick as possible."
Matheny said there is a specific number of at-bats or innings that Schumaker will get while in Memphis. Schumaker will work his way up to playing in a full game, and how quickly that happens will be based simply on how he feels.
Schumaker was batting .321 with 12 RBIs in 29 games this season before he was placed on the 15-day DL on June 1.
Rafael Furcal's batting average (.299) slipped under .300 on Tuesday for the first time since April 15. After that day -- a 1-for-5 performance against the Cubs -- Furcal went on a tear to bring his average all the way up to .383 on May 13. During that span, Furcal hit .412 over 24 games. But the 34-year-old shortstop is batting .219 in his last 28 games. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that cooling off period was almost inevitable for Furcal considering how well he was doing for so long.
"It's hard to keep up that pace," Matheny said. "But he's grinding, he's really pushing. We're going to have to find him a couple days. We're gonna do it, and I talked to him today and said, 'Just keep pushing, man.'"
Matt Carpenter will join Triple-A Memphis on Thursday to begin his Minor League rehab assignment. Carpenter has been sidelined by a right oblique strain since May 23.
Carlos Beltran is 7-for-15 with two homers and two RBIs on the Cardinals' current homestand entering Wednesday's game.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Mike Still is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.