Can Chris Carpenter Ever Recover from Shoulder Injury That Will Cost Him 2013?
The Cardinals announced on Tuesday afternoon that Chris Carpenter would miss the 2013 season after a recurrence of shoulder problems. Carpenter missed the bulk of 2012 with a shoulder issue that was said to be corrected by surgery. The evidence and Carpenter's injury history suggests that he will miss all of 2013 and could be done, period.
Carpenter had surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome in July, resulting in the removal of a rib to open up space in the area. This surgery is not uncommon for pitchers or other people with overhead, repetitive motions. (The occupation that most often has this issue? Carpenters, ironically, due to the hammering they do.)
No other pitchers that have had this type of surgery have had significant setbacks of this type. That said, no other pitcher who has had this surgery has the long list of ailments that Carpenter has dealt with throughout his career. The best known comparables are David Cone and Kenny Rogers.
Carpenter has always had injury issues, especially with his pitching shoulder, going back to his Blue Jay tenure. He came to the Cardinals after the Jays did not believe he would return to effectiveness after a rotator cuff and labrum problem.
The Cardinals rehabbed Carpenter through the 2003 season and were rewarded when he helped them get to the 2004 World Series with an excellent campaign. Carpenter did miss the World Series, losing the last month of the season and the playoffs due to a nerve injury in his shoulder.
Carpenter came back with a strong 2005 campaign, winning the Cy Young award. More problems arose in 2007 when he needed two elbow surgeries, including Tommy John reconstruction. Carpenter missed almost all of the 2008 season while rehabbing.
Carpenter returned well in 2009, nearly winning the Cy Young Award. It should be noted that I was one of two voters that left Carpenter off his Cy Young ballot that season, though I had his fellow Cardinal Adam Wainwright as my No. 1 ahead of winner Tim Lincecum. My reasoning for picking Wainwright, Lincecum and Dan Haren over Carpenter was in large part based on Carpenter having missed a month with an oblique strain and the lost value of that time.
Carpenter's contract with the Cardinals expires after the 2013 season. GM John Mozeliak said at the press conference that he doesn't believe that Carpenter will pitch for the Cardinals again. The extension, signed in 2011, was for two years and $21 million, but Carpenter was only able to pitch 17 innings at the end of last season.
Mozeliak stated that the door was open for Carpenter to return this season if he is physically able, putting the team in a similar position to last year. In the meantime, the Cardinals will go young with their pitching. They will need Lance Lynn to give a full season of work after an excellent rookie campaign that saw him hit the wall in the second half.
They will also need top prospect Shelby Miller to step up, giving the team the SP2 that they now lack, while also not extending his young arm too far past the 150-inning mark he got to last season at two levels.
All quotes in this piece were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.
Will Carroll has been writing about sports injuries for 12 years. His work has appeared at SI.com, ESPN.com and MLB.com.
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