Few contending clubs do bullpen chaos like the Cardinals. Relief intrigue is as St. Louis as a highway do-over, bad diet and “the high school question.” What would April, May and June be locally without playing late-inning connect-the-relievers? A stretch drive is no fun unless predicated on a July trade to address the pen’s leaky hull. Two years ago John Mozeliak found Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and the just-released Arthur Rhodes and the franchise won a World Series. Last season the club took four months to build a bridge connecting the seventh inning to the ninth. It wasn’t until ‘Mo’ traded oversold infield prospect Zack Cox to the Miami Marlins for Edward Mujica that the club achieved a modicum of normalcy; “Chief” emerged as a seventh-inning magic man who allowed rookie manager Mike Matheny a reliable late-game formula. Now this: The Cardinals in the last week conceded three moves that subtracted relievers responsible for 215 appearances and 192 innings pitched last season. Two moves are temporary. The third, involving closer Jason Motte, is a season-ender. Mozeliak is mercifully past denying Mitchell Boggs’ altered mechanics and eroded confidence. He admittedly grew impatient with Rzepczynski’s lefthanded stubbornness. Both now labor for Triple-A Memphis. And after a much-publicized last-ditch stop to rehab, Motte this week undergoes ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow. While Motte visits an orthopedist, this bullpen needs to see a plastic surgeon. A major facelift could be in store: The Cardinals wish to resurrect Chris Carpenter from the pitching dead. Carprenter’s career, administered last rites before spring training, again shows a pulse. The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner recently resumed a throwing program at Busch Stadium less than three months after weakness, pain and discoloration in his right side forced him to wave off spring training. This is no stunt or pat on the head to a veteran unwilling to concede the obvious. Both parties believe Carpenter can potentially address the gash to the bullpen’s starboard side. “I’m candidly optimistic and excited about him contributing,” Mozeliak says. Carpenter remains on the team’s 60-day disabled list, meaning he can not be activated sooner than the end of this month. Though no formal timetable is in place, Mozeliak thinks a projected return in late June or early July reasonable. “I want to do what I can to help,” Carpenter said Thursday at Scottrade Center, where the former high school defenseman watched the Blues’ playoff win against the Los Angeles Kings. “We really haven’t focused on a timetable or anything,” Mozeliak says. “We’re merely letting him go out and see what he can do. If he clears one hurdle, he proceeds to the next.” Carpenter, 37, almost certainly would return in relief. He would require less time conditioning to work several outs rather than pitch for six or seven innings. Just as significant, the Cardinals’ rotation easily leads both leagues in starters’ earned-run average. No weak link has been exposed . Asked about Carpenter’s reaction, Mozeliak offers, “I’ll echo what he said. He is feeling good, which is something that I honestly would not have expected after receiving the news (of his nerve-related shoulder weakness) in February.” Carpenter’s history is replete with amazing returns. He secured his Cy Young Award after the initial manifestation of his nerve condition prevented his appearing in the 2004 postseason. Carpenter missed two seasons because of elbow and nerve issues before leading the National League in ERA in 2009. He worked more than 273 innings in 2011, inviting a ready connection to the thoracic outlet syndrome that flared 15 months ago.
Is bullpen next for Chris Carpenter?
St. Louis Post-Dispatch | May 5