Chris Carpenter is ready to resume facing live hitters

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch provides the update:

Chris Carpenter threw his fourth bullpen session on Wednesday and is expected to add the challenge of facing hitters the next time he gets on the mound.

Assuming Carpenter doesn’t feel any day-after pain from his latest work, the right-hander will throw batting practice during the team’s weekend series in Kansas City

Carpenter has been on the disabled list all season with a nerve issue in his neck and shoulder that began bothering him during the second week of spring training.

“I feel good. I really do,” the veteran righty told Langosch on Wednesday. “My shoulder feels good. My body feels good. The effort level has been there, too. … I feel good, and I’m looking forward to the next step.”

Carpenter will need to make three or four minor league rehab starts before rejoining the front end of the Cardinals’ starting rotation. If he’s able to avoid setbacks, he could be ready for MLB action by late July.

The 36-year-old right-hander posted a 3.45 ERA across a major league-high 237 1/3 innings last year before going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in six postseason outings (three of which were World Series starts).

The 2012 Cards climbed to one game over .500 (35-34) with Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory over Detroit.

Marlins option Tom Koehler to Triple-A, recall Hunter Cervenka

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Long-time rotation mainstay Tom Koehler was optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on Monday and reliever Hunter Cervenka was recalled, the Marlins announced.

Koehler, 31, made 131 starts out of the Marlins’ rotation over the last five years, but his 12 this season have not been good, so the club hopes he can figure things out with a stint in the minors. He’s carrying a 7.92 ERA with a 44/29 K/BB ratio in 55 2/3 innings. Koehler battled bursitis in his right shoulder in May and June, which may partially explain his struggles.

Cervenka, 27, posted a 4.50 ERA with a 34/21 K/BB ratio in 34 innings of relief with New Orleans. He hasn’t pitched in the majors yet this season, but compiled a 3.53 ERA over 43 1/3 innings in the bigs last year in the Marlins’ bullpen.

Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are interested in Pat Neshek

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At the trade deadline, relief pitching is the name of the game and one of the names clearly available is Pat Neshek. Today Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reports that the Nationals, Dodgers, and Red Sox are among the clubs who are closely scouting the Phillies reliever. Last week Ken Rosenthal reported that the Brewers and Rays were involved as well.

Neshek is an impending free agent, so he may come cheaper than Justin Wilson or some of the other bullpen arms available right now. The All-Star is 36 and is posting a fantastic season, featuring a 1.12 ERA and 45/5 K/BB ratio over 40.1 innings this season.