ST. LOUIS – Two key pieces of the St. Louis Cardinals appear one step closer to returning.

Outfielder Lars Nootbaar will take some swings with the team Thursday and could return to the lineup as soon as Saturday. Nootbaar will likely play in at least one rehab game before he returns from a minor thumb injury.

Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright will face hitters in a live BP session either Friday or Saturday. After that, the Cardinals will determine on a potential rehab assignment and timeline for return. Wainwright has been dealing with a groin injury since the final day of the World Baseball Classic.

The Cardinals begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 5-7 record to start the 2023 season.