When — and it increasingly looks like when and not if — ace Chris Carpenter makes an appearance for the Cardinals this month, he will move directly from disabled list to wild-card race without the benefit of a rehab assignment or exhibition appearance.

"Fun isn't it?" he said.

Carpenter threw 51 pitches during three simulated innings against teammates Tuesday at Busch Stadium. The righty, who had surgery in July to alleviate the choking of nerves near his right shoulder, is building his pitch count with each outing in an effort to rejoin the rotation before the end of this regular season. General manager John Mozeliak called that option "in play," and the Cardinals are open to using Carpenter as a starter down the stretch.