Today we got wind that Chris Carpenter’s comeback was being postponed due to the recurring numbness in the righthander’s pitching hand returning. One of the toughest pitchers in baseball simply can’t outrun his own body’s breaking point. Carpenter has had every surgery known to a baseball player. He had a piece of his rib inserted into his shoulder and neck area to alleviate pain once. Chris Carpenter once parallel parked a train. I’m kidding. That’s a Dos Equis Most Interesting Man in the world joke. Anyway, Carpenter isn’t knocked out but he is on the canvas again while reality, his arm and the world is seemingly counting to 10 once again. Sorry I sound overly dramatic here but baseball is a romantic game played by men in shiny uniforms. I digress…
Carpetner’s 2013 season has been like a spaghetti western. The old gunslinger getting knocked down and repeatedly getting up. In February, he calls John Mozelaik and tells him his right hand is numb and he can’t throw anymore. In a conversation transcription that probably sounded like John Wayne talking to his horse, Carp hung up his glove. Then, suddenly, the season got a lot less fun. I was going to miss the screaming, maniacal, emotional captain on the mound every 5 days letting it rip. Good or bad, Carpenter always let it rip. He is a pitcher to embody and a man to follow into hell on the field. He pitched the greatest game I’ve ever watched, against his buddy Roy Halladay in the winner take all divisional series in 2011. He made Hanley Rameriz piss his pants. He challenged many other hitters to a duel. He was a hockey player so they stayed away. Chris Carpenter was bad ass. Truly wicked. If he pat you on the back, you could put it on your resume(sorry, another beer quote). He is exactly what Lance Lynn needs to see when he walks into the clubhouse at Busch Stadium. Brass balls toughness.
Suddenly, near the end of May, there was a story that the pain and numbness in Carpenter’s neck, arm and hand had disappeared and he could throw again. At first, he was going to come back as a reliever and he started throwing bullpen sessions. Soon after, he started the workload of a starter and threw more bullpens. It seemed to a fan like he threw about 47 bullpen sessions before finally going on a rehab assignment last week in Springfield. He pitched less than 4 innings but looked pretty good for his first start in 2013. On Saturday, he threw for Memphis and didn’t pitch well at all. He got shelled. He told STL Post Dispatch scribe Joe Strauss that this wasn’t a good sign. Three days later, he shut it down due to the numbness. He saw a doctor last night and a direction will be carved for his future. It may involve rest that could consume the rest of his 2013 season. It may be a few weeks. He could be done. The ammo in his comeback belt has to be dangerously low. He could wake up tomorrow, lift up his car and do an oil change and decide to call it quits. He can do that and retire as one of the best Cardinal pitchers to ever climb the hill. Injuries may prevent him from the Hall of Fame or his brief greatness and overall solid stats may get him in. That isn’t for me to judge. I will tell you he is the best pitcher I have ever seen based on factors that won’t be tabulated into votes. Frankly, I don’t give a shit and I have a feeling Carpenter doesn’t either.
Carpenter has started 332 games. He has thrown 2,219 innings. He has allowed 220 balls to leave his hand and end up on the other side of the outfield fence. He has retired 1,697 hitters via the strikeout while walking only 627. He owns 144 wins and 94 losses, with a 3.76 earned run average. 33 complete games and 15 shutouts. 2 World Series rings. 1 Cy Young award. He is a 38 year old veteran in his 15th season, and 10 as a Cardinal. His 6 years of mediocre injury plagued ball in Toronto may cost him the HOF. Out of his 10 seasons as a Cardinal, he has failed to pitch in 5 games in 2 of them(2013 may make that list grow to 3 seasons).
Carpenter was due to make 10 million this season but that could be covered by the insurance unless he pitches in a certain number of games for the mothership. If he doesn’t pitch again this season, the Cards and him could revisit a plan for 2014. Many would call them crazy to even think about bringing him back after 2 years of serious injury related troubles. There’s something indelible about Carpenter and his connection with Cardinal baseball. Mozelaik knows that and so does Mike Matheny. That is why they signed off on this rehab mission and may push the train one more time this year or next. It’s hard to let go of a guy like Carp. He’s tough, resilient and everything you want your young ballplayers to emulate. He’s as old school as it gets. I wanted to see him climb that hill one more time. If I buy another Cards jersey, it will be Chris Carpenter. You can wear it forever. Next year, and many seasons after. I will tell Vinny about him often. Before my son heads out for his first game. CC won’t be associated with a lefthanded Yankees pitcher in my house(no offense, he’s pretty damn good in his own right). If Carp got work on another team, you could still wear his jersey to Busch and feel good. I still haven’t worn my Pujols jersey to the stadium(there’s nothing wrong with doing so). Carpenter’s would be a proud thing to throw on. I am rambling. Forgive me. It’s past 1am and I am just firing at will. No filter at all.
As my good friend and trusted Cards ally PJ has pointed out, The Cards and Carpenter could hash out an incentive laden deal. Start at a million, see where Carpenter’s workload goes and the number may approach 15 million if he reaches 200 innings. Pitch to earn money and help your ballclub wager. I am not sure if either side would go with it, taking into account the Cards abundant supply of young cheap cost controlled arms and Carpenter’s pride factor and need to hang it up or move elsewhere. I would surely love to see him climb the mound in some capacity again and pitch. As long as he isn’t in Cincinnati red or Chicago blue, I am good. For that matter, Milwaukee blue or Pittsburgh gold/black. I want Carpenter to end his career here obviously but seeing him throw somewhere would still be a delight.
They don’t make them like him anymore so when he finally does call it quits, it will be a sad day in baseball. When “retired” and “Chris Carpenter” appear in the same sentence together, shock will settle in. A reality. With all due respect to Adam Wainwright, Carpenter was something else. I don’t want to see him stay too long and get shelled and become an embarrassment like Willie Mays or Muhammad Ali. He needs to go out strong. How will that happen and in what uniform is bound to be determined. All we know for now is that Chris Carpenter is taking a step back from his comeback trek. Reassessing and re-calibrating.
I surely won’t count him out yet. Would you?
In other news, the Cards won, Edward Mujica made it dramatic yet got 3 outs and his 29th save, Shelby Miller climbed back on the horse and the Cards are 60-37.
Odd yet true note. Hugh Jackman makes all men seem inferior when he steps on screen as the Wolverine. He ate 7 chicken breasts a day to become that big. Is it weird that I am typing this as I eat a chicken breast? I know what you’re saying. Stop it now. Just know this. When Hugh wants to raise money for a foundation, he climbs on a stage and puts on a one man show by singing and dancing and winning Tony Awards. The man is ridiculously talented.
One More Thing…If Chris Carpenter is told by the doctors that a limited amount of work, pitching, is attainable this season, I would strongly suggest bringing him back as a bullpen arm. The guy obviously wants to pitch bad. It’s a white hot pain burning through his immune system right now, sending signals throughout the chest, head and arms that it still can be done. It’s amazing what your mind tells you can do without your body’s signoff. The numbness that returned this past weekend wasn’t as bad as it was last year or in February. Carpenter decided to shut it down before it got back to that level of discomfort. Maybe 2-3 weeks of rest and a 10 day rehab assignment with Memphis can get him ready for a September assignment here. He could be the Mujica of 2012. The 7th inning shutdown arm. His stuff was good for 1 inning in each rehab start. If that is all he needs then I say shoot for that kind of return in 2013. Leave 2014 for the rotation comeback trail. This year, it could Carpenter-Rosenthal-Mujica. What a triple threat to have at your disposal in the stretch run of the season. The final 35-50 games where teams are getting worn down. Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook or Joe Kelly goes 6 innings and that’s fine. Bring on the crew! A reliever’s load wouldn’t be too hard if the pitch count was kept down. That is what I think put the strain on Carp’s hand this time. Throwing all those bullpen session, innings and pitches in such a short time frame. It was too much. A reliever return is Chris Carpenter’s best bet at kissing the sun of the mound in 2013. We will have to wait and see if it becomes even a hint of a reality.
That’s all. Have a good day friendo’s.