The idea was that hopefully by spring training he would be back to his old self following an intense regimen this winter that would have him presumably back to normal.
That was the plan less than three weeks ago. Plans change.
Once Carpenter was first able to begin resuming baseball activities, it felt good. He threw more and kept feeling good—a sensation he hadn't had in quite some time.
He felt so good, in fact, that rumors began to fly about whether he could throw again this season.
After several simulated games and bullpen sessions, Carpenter on Monday was believed to still be a simulated start away from making his return to the big leagues.
As Cardinals fans have already learned in the Carpenter capers of 2012, plans can change.
Given the lackluster performance by LHP Jaime Garcia on Monday evening, plans need to change.
Follow the break for five reasons why the Cardinals must activate Carpenter for Saturday's start in Los Angeles.
We'll start by stating the obvious. As fans were reminded Monday evening, Jaime Garcia struggles on the road.
Garcia's home/road split is one of the worst in the major leagues.
Inside Busch Stadium, Garcia has a solid 2.63 ERA with a 2-2 record and has surrendered only 14 earned runs in 48 innings.
Outside of Busch Stadium the numbers are quite grim. It may still be 60'6" from the mound to home plate, but something gets to Garcia in a big way.
On the road, Garcia has a 6.19 ERA in nine starts. He has a 2-5 record and has given up 33 runs. In 2012, Garcia has surrendered a total of six home runs—all of them have been on the road.
His shaky three-inning start Monday against the San Diego Padres only further solidified the need for an adjustment. I'm not advocating for benching Garcia, just temporarily re-working the rotation to keep him pitching in St. Louis.
The four-game series beginning Thursday in Los Angeles against the Dodgers is huge for the Cardinals.
If the Cardinals walk into Dodger Stadium and lose three or four games, they will be in a hole difficult to come back from.
With the Dodgers one game behind the Cardinals for the second NL Wild Card slot, it is more important than ever that they win this series.
While the situation might not be "do-or-die" yet, that level of urgency is rapidly approaching.
If the Cardinals can survive this week's trip to the west coast, the remaining schedule seems to favor them.
The Cardinals have a huge opportunity ahead of them, but if they don't manage to get past the weaker teams, then the outlook is bleak.
With so much on the line, it's more important than ever for the Cardinals to go all-in this weekend.
Under no circumstances can the team afford another painful loss like Monday's to the Padres or the two to the Milwaukee Brewers.
While the Cardinals appear adamant that Carpenter will make one more simulated start before appearing in a game, there is the possibility that plan could change.
Carpenter is expected to throw 90 pitches on Saturday against live batters. Given the uncertainty of Garcia on the road, I see little reason that the batters Carpenter faces shouldn't be Dodgers.
At this point, it appears that the Cardinals are leaning toward Trevor Rosenthal or Shelby Miller. With that being said, they decided to use Lance Lynn to fill in for Jake Westbrook's start in Los Angeles because they didn't want Rosenthal or Miller's first start to be in such a high-leverage situation.
Saturday will be no different from Thursday in terms of importance and if anyone knows how to handle pressure, it's Chris Carpenter.
While the final decision remains to be seen, if I had to pick any Cardinal pitcher to be on the mound this weekend, Carpenter is my top choice.