Now, after a miraculous recovery from what was supposed to be season-ending surgery, Carpenter appears ready to contribute to the Cardinals' playoff run. The 37-year-old right-hander was sidelined due to thoracic outlet syndrome which caused numbness on the right side of his body.
Carpenter was hoping that surgery would aid him in a return during the 2013 season, but the outlook has quickly become even more optimistic. On September 4th, Carpenter threw a painless simulated game and is scheduled to throw another session on Monday.
If everything goes well, Carp could potentially make four starts during a key stretch for the Redbirds, according to Joe Strauss' article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
There is no question who has been the ace of the staff since Carpenter's arrival in St. Louis in 2004. Along with third baseman David Freese, Carpenter was a playoff hero last season, posting a 4-0 record with a 3.25 ERA, including a three-hit, complete-game shutout in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies—one of the best pitching performances in playoff history.
Carpenter's return would be huge for the Cardinals' playoffs chances this season. Here is why he will still be a dominant pitcher.
When healthy, Carpenter is one of the top five pitchers in all of baseball. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
In July, it was unknown if Carpenter would ever regain that status, but the former Cy Young Award winner looked great in his throwing session last week, according to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in an ESPN article.
"The ball was jumping out of his hand. It's really in his finish," Matheny said. "He has sink, he has cut, which he wasn't really able to do before."
Carpenter also had a positive feeling about the outing, according to the article.
"I went into it strong and I came out of it strong, so I was ahead of the game to begin with, and my arm came back nicely," Carpenter said.
With his regained arm strength, Carpenter will be able to dominate hitters with his low-90s fastball, effective two-seam and knee-buckling curveball.
Baseball is one heck of a grind. In a season that is six months long, this is the time of year when some players begin to wear down because of the heavy load.
Carpenter, on the other hand, should feel as fresh as others did on Opening Day. This should help him perform at his best down the stretch for the Redbirds.
While it will take time to build up his stamina and shake off the rust from being on the shelf, Carpenter has been throwing since mid-August, giving him ample time to be ready for game action in the near future.
"The way I feel I want to give it a shot," Carpenter said in Strauss' article. "If we can do it, let's do it."
Whether he is bearing down in the ninth inning of a big game or coming back from a severe injury, Carpenter has always been a warrior.
A pitcher who has overcome shoulder surgery (2003) and Tommy John surgery (2007), Carpenter has been through it all—coming back strong each and every time.
In 2004, Carpenter returned from a torn labrum, leading the Cardinals to their first NL pennant since 1987. Carp was the ace of the staff, posting a 15-5 record. One season later, Carpenter won the Cy Young Award.
After starting only four games in two seasons because of Tommy John surgery, Carpenter came back as strong as ever in 2009, registering 17 wins and a career-low 2.24 ERA (minimum five starts), finishing runner-up in the Cy Young race.
Now, Carpenter is once again attempting a triumphant comeback. His 95-42 record in a Cardinals' uniform speaks volumes about his value to the team.
On and off the mound, Carpenter is fearless. This is what makes him one of the most clutch pitchers in the game, and one who is not afraid of what is ahead.
"Believe me, I'm not scared. I've gone through too much to be scared about what may happen next. I want to find out. To me, there's nothing left to be scared about."
If there are no hiccups in his recovery, Carpenter may be ready to make a start in a pivotal series against the Dodgers this weekend. It would be the first time Carpenter has pitched in a real game since the Cardinals clinched the World Series title last October.
The Cardinals' series in Los Angeles will be huge, as the Dodgers sit only 1.5 games back in the wild-card race. Nevertheless, if given a chance, expect Carpenter to attack Dodgers hitters as if he hasn't missed a beat.