Mulder could start vs. Pirates; Cards eye six-man rotation

ST. LOUIS -- Mark Mulder could rejoin the
St. Louis Cardinals' rotation next week as a sixth starter, a little more than one year after
shoulder surgery.

The left-hander, coming back from an operation last Sept. 13 to
repair a torn rotator cuff, worked five innings in his fourth rehab
start on Friday night. Pitching for Triple-A Memphis, he allowed
two runs on three hits with four strikeouts and a walk against
Nashville, the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate.

The only damage to Mulder, who threw 65 pitches, was a two-run
homer by Mike Rivera in the second inning.

St. Louis, 2˝ games back in the NL Central going into Friday
night, is in the midst of playing its final 35 games in a 34-day
stretch with no days off. A six-man rotation would allow the team
to give some extra rest to fatigued pitchers like Adam Wainwright
and Braden Looper, a pair of converted relievers.

Mulder could be slotted in Wednesday or Thursday at home against
the Pirates.

"There's a possibility if he keeps moving forward, he could
pitch in that Pittsburgh series," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa
said. "He's not here yet, so let's let him take his assignment,
because he may need another one. I don't want to put any pressure
on him."

The 30-year-old Mulder threw about 60 pitches in his third rehab
start, and La Russa said the plan called for him to increase to
75-80 on Friday.

Mulder was 6-7 with a 7.14 ERA in 17 starts last year and had
two stints on the disabled list. He was a 21-game winner for
Oakland in 2001 and was 16-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 2005, his first
year with the Cardinals.