ST. LOUIS - Cardinals pitcher Matt Clement is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment next week, finally signaling a bit of progress for a player out since shoulder surgery in 2006.

Clement is one of a handful of rehabbing pitchers on the move from the team's extended spring training base in Jupiter, Fla. Chris Carpenter (elbow), closer Jason Isringhausen (hand) and Brad Thompson (elbow) will all throw in simulated games for the first time on Saturday.

Isringhausen, on the 15-day disabled list since May 16, could be the first to return. General manager John Mozeliak said Friday there's a chance Isringhausen may not need a rehab assignment, with confidence a much bigger factor than a lacerated hand, now healed, that gave them an out to put him on the DL.

"I'm encouraged, but I don't want to put a timetable on it," Mozeliak said. "Tomorrow's a more fair way to gauge."

Clement, who signed a one-year, $1.5 million free agent deal in January, starts the rehab assignment with Class-A Palm Beach on Wednesday. Mozeliak said he's conditioned to throw 100 pitches at velocity in the midto high-80s, close to his pre-injury form.

The general manager also said the Cardinals almost certainly would use the entire 30-day rehab period to make a call on the right-hander.

"He's definitely going to be someone we want to be challenged and pushed," Mozeliak said. "In his case, we're going to find out what we really have.

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"I suspect by the first part of July, we'll know."

Mozeliak said that extended spring training ends Sunday is just a coincidence with the timing of Clement's rehab, saying both the pitcher and the organization feel he's ready.

"His last outing down there was very good," Mozeliak said.

Thompson may throw two simulated games and then go on a rehab assignment that would condition him as a starting pitcher.

The Cardinals are taking a conservative approach with Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, because there's no urgency to get him back in the rotation. He's had what Mozeliak referred to as a "very smooth" rehab thus far, and the team has forecast a return around the All-Star break.

"There's no reason to accelerate anything," Mozeliak said. "We're getting quality starting pitching right now. Let him continue to get stronger and feel better about what he's doing."

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