By Jordan Palmer and Corey Noles

(KSDK Sports) -- St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Tuesday that shortstop Rafael Furcal is progressing in his throwing program, but not to the point that he will be able to play in the teams first scheduled Spring Training start Saturday.

Furcal, 35, was injured late in August 2012 when he damaged an elbow ligament in his throwing arm. In lieu of surgery, he opted for a physical therapy stint late in the year and the Cardinals have since been optimistic about his return.

Jennifer Langosch of reported that Furcal underwent therapy from a Miami-area training staff over the winter months. She reported that the trainers, under direction of the Cardinals medical staff, had cleared Furcal to throw just two months after his Aug. 31 injury.

While he has made marked progress toward a return, Matheny made it clear he was still not 100-percent.

"He still hasn't let it go yet, so its going to be hard to put him out in a situation where he goes to his back hand deep in the hole," Matheny said, explaining why Furcal would not be playing in this weekend's games. "We know he's not ready for that."

Matheny said they have been being cautious with him since his arrival at Spring Training to be sure that he is ready to go for Opening Day.
Right now, they're simply following the doctor's orders.

"We're really following the medical guys on this," he said. "They put him on a throwing plan and were going to stick to that plan."

He declined to give any sort of timeline, but did say the plan is still for him to suit up on Opening Day.

Since joining the Cardinals in a July deadline trade he has played in 171 regular season games and has batted .262 overall. He began 2012 on a hot streak that lasted where he hit .315 in April and .349 in May with an on-base percentage averaging .390. That streak ended with a dramatic June dropoff. During which his numbers literally fell in half.

"I'm not going to have too much of a panic because we watched him really take his time last year [in Spring Training] and when he showed up the first day of the season he was ready to go," Matheny said. "That's what were going to anticipate again."

Matheny told reporters that at this point he does not want to rush his return and that it's a matter of Furcal's own comfort with what he's able to do.

"I'm not wanting to push him until he's ready," Matheny said. "Until he is ready we have a bunch of guys we need to see."

He said that part of the plan involves dealing with the physical aspect of rehabilitation and the other part deals with the mental aspect of returning.

While he is currently involved in throwing and training exercises that have him throwing across the field, there is a big difference in that and actually digging in for a game.

At least for now, the Cardinals plan is to wait it out.

"We're not going to commit to any one thing, except the fact that hes been doing his work," Matheny said. "He's right on track and were going to stay the course."