Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter started throwing a month earlier than usual this winter because he was so eager to answer any lingering concerns about his repaired shoulder.

The question awaiting next winter, however, can wait.

Carpenter, who will turn 38 in April, is entering the final year of his contract with the Cardinals, and he's doing so after missing most of last season with nerve issues in his right shoulder. Carpenter made an unexpected return to the rotation in time to make three regular-season starts and three more in the postseason – what he viewed as a head start on his recovery. Usually one to wait until after New Year's Day to begin a throwing program, he surrendered to the itch to pitch – or at least throw – in early December.

"I got a little anxious, honestly," Carpenter said Saturday at the Cardinals' 17th annual Winter Warm-Up. "I just started getting my arm going a little earlier than I have in the past. I was a little anxious about the way I was going to feel. When you go through all the stuff that I've gone through there is always that doubt in your mind when you pick up the ball – what is it going to feel like?"

So far? So good.

Carpenter said he has not experienced any concerns as he prepared for spring training, which opens next month. His early start will lead into an early move to Jupiter, Fla. The Cardinals still plan to ease him into the routine at spring training and do not expect him to make as many starts during Grapefruit League play as the other younger starters.

The righty and former Cy Young Award winner acknowledged that he has thought about what is looming at the end of this season, and that any of those thoughts were grounded in first getting through the season.