ST. LOUIS -- Encouraged by how good his elbow felt while throwing on Thursday, Jake Westbrook said he is hopeful of making his first Minor League rehab appearance as early as next Tuesday.
Westbrook estimated that he threw 60-65 pitches without a break on Thursday, using the session to throw a variety of pitch types at full intensity. It was the second pain-free bullpen session for Westbrook since he had a setback in San Diego last week.
"How it feels and what I was capable of doing today, it's a great feeling," Westbrook said. "It actually feels today the best it's felt this year, even in the games I pitched. I've been battling something basically since Spring Training. I was able to get through it and move past it, but it actually feels better now than it did then."
Westbrook said he expects to throw a light side session on Saturday -- similar to the ones that starters throw in between starts -- and then pitch for one of the organization's Minor League affiliates on Tuesday. With Double-A Springfield at home next Tuesday, that would likely be Westbrook's destination.
The Cardinals have not explicitly stated a number of rehab starts that Westbrook will need before he can come off the disabled list, though Westbrook estimated it as "a couple at most." He last pitched on May 8, after which elbow inflammation and a buildup of scar tissue forced him to the disabled list. Two cortisone shots helped break up that scar tissue.
"We didn't know how this was going to head and then it turned the corner," manager Mike Matheny said. "Compliments to Jake and the medical staff for figuring out a way to get him better."
Cards option Blazek to make room for Wacha
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals optioned right-hander Michael Blazek to Triple-A on Thursday in order to make room for starter Michael Wacha to be added to the club's 25-man roster. Wacha, the 19th overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, is scheduled to make his debut against the Royals on Thursday.
Blazek was called up from Double-A on Sunday when the Cardinals placed John Gast on the disabled list. He did not appear in a game during his short stint with the Major League club, though he was warming up to pitch the ninth on Wednesday had the Cardinals taken a bigger lead.
"It would have been nice to have seen him, but it was a nice compliment for him to come straight up from Double-A," manager Mike Matheny said. "We want to see what he can do. He's had a really nice start to the season. He has an opportunity now to go to Memphis and continue to work."
In order to open a spot for Wacha on the 40-man roster, the Cardinals moved left-hander Jaime Garcia to the 60-day disabled list. Garcia underwent season-ending shoulder surgery last Friday.
Mujica told he'll be unavailable to pitch Thursday
ST. LOUIS -- After pitching four straight days for the first time in his career, Edward Mujica has been told that he will not be available for use on Thursday night. Manager Mike Matheny did not confirm the preplanned night off for Mujica, though it would seem logical that he would turn to Trevor Rosenthal should a save situation arrive.
Mujica, 17-for-17 in save opportunities this season, had thrown three consecutive days 12 times previously, including twice earlier this season. The closer's efficiency has been one of the reasons the Cardinals have felt comfortable leaning so heavily on Mujica to this point. He has not thrown more than 19 pitches in any of his save chances and has totaled only 45 over this four-game stretch of saves.
Mujica's role, Matheny said, is also taken into consideration when determining how heavy a workload the right-hander can handle.
"I think you have to treat your closers a little differently," Matheny said. "I want him to know he's doing a great job for us. We put all the faith in the world in him. We put trust in him, too."
Mujica said that he convinced Matheny he felt strong on Wednesday afternoon after Matheny let him know he preferred not to use him at all in Wednesday's game. Matheny altered his plans following that discussion.
It's unlikely that Matheny would change his mind again on Thursday.
"He told me today it's a day off," Mujica said. "He told me that they don't like to use pitchers four days in a row, but that the closer is kind of different because you have to be available in certain game situations. But after last night's game, he told me, 'Hey Mujica, I am probably going to give you two days off.' He asked me today how many days I wanted. I said today, and let's see how it feels tomorrow."
Mujica has already pitched in 24 games, putting him on pace to exceed his previous season high of 70. His 17 saves rank second in the National League behind Pittsburgh's Jason Grilli (21).
• According to Joe Strohm, vice president of ticket sales, the Cardinals had already sold about 42,000 tickets for Thursday's game prior to the organization announcing that right-hander Michael Wacha would make his debut that night. The club sold another 1,000 tickets after the announcement, though Strohm surmised that there would have been a higher uptick in ticket sales had more tickets been available.
• Matheny said that the team's infielders noticed a difference in how the infield played post-soccer game, but added that none of them described the field conditions as inadequate. The grounds crew took away a layer of dirt and then replaced it with new dirt while the team was on the road last week so that Busch Stadium could host an English Premier League soccer match.
"[Head groundskeeper] Bill [Findley] had quite the task to disassemble and recreate it that fast," Matheny said. "I'm actually blown away that they were able to get it anything like it looks right now."
• Triple-A outfielder Justin Christian entered Thursday riding a 10-game hitting streak. Christian contributed a two-run homer in Memphis' 5-1 win on Wednesday.
• Busch Stadium played host to a press conference on Thursday afternoon during which the Royals introduced George Brett as their interim hitting coach. Brett played in Kansas City for the entirety of his 21-year career. During that time, he was on the 1985 club that defeated the Cardinals in the World Series.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.