Chris Carptener's Injury: Two Losses for the Price of One

Daniel ShoptawAnalyst IApril 15, 2009

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 9:  Starting pitcher Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 9, 2009 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Pirates 2-1.  (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

After an offseason of hype and a strong beginning to the season, the de facto No. 2 pitcher of the Cardinals rotation swung the bat wrong and strained his oblique. That was 2002 and Woody Williams.

Last night, in the Arizona desert, it happened again. This time it was Chris Carpenter.

The Cardinals can only hope that Carpenter doesn't follow the same path as his predecessor.  Williams spent months on the DL, then returned there for the same issue.  While he had a good year, it would have been better if he'd thrown more innings.

Carpenter was continuing to cruise last night, which was a good thing.  Granted, he gave up more hits in three innings than he did last time in seven, but that was to be expected.  In fact, it made me wonder about how Cardinal fans would handle a struggling Carpenter.  He's been built up to almost mythic status during his rehab. 

Unconsciously, I think we expect close to perfection with him, that the only reason he would give up five runs would be because of injury.

So, Carpenter is out, likely to the DL for an undetermined period of time. 

All of those plans in the spring about having a backup for Carpenter got reexamined.  Will Kyle McClellan get first crack?  If so, who takes his spot in the bullpen? Jess Todd?  Being that Todd has the starter background, he'd fit in McClellan's slot: a guy that can give multiple innings. 

Bringing up Chris Perez will leave you with only Brad Thompson, who's more than a one-inning guy. If you haven't figured it out by now, that's not a good thing.

As I write this, though, I checked Future Redbirds.  Both Mitchell Boggs and Perez are coming up, says Derrick Goold

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I'm not sure who would be going down.  Though Thompson would seem to be the only choice, with Jason Motte looking like he's gotten things under control.

Enough about that depressing topic.  Let's move on to the next depressing topic.

Even without Carpenter going deep into the game, it looked like the Cardinals were well on their way to another win. 

I can't blame Motte and Dennys Reyes too much for that third run.  Motte pitched very well in his outing. It makes you wonder if a different second baseman could have kept that hit in the infield, making first and second instead of first and third.

Reyes had just faced Stephen Drew last night, IIRC, and he made good pitches to him but Drew was able to get the run in.  These things happen and the Cards were still up by one.

I missed the bottom of the eighth when Josh Kinney blew up.  Allowing a three-run, two-out, pinch-hit home run is just devastating, especially when the team has battled so much to win the game.

I didn't have much hope for a ninth inning revival, especially when seeing people like Brian Barden in the mix.  But this team didn't give up with singles, walks, and RBI. 

I loved seeing Colby Rasmus come through with the bases loaded. While Albert Pujols didn't have the kind of hit you might expect out of him, he did tie the ballgame up and left the bases loaded with one out.  In fact, we'll take Rasmus as the Hero due to his two hits and a stolen base, though that at-bat event was the main reason. 

I thought about Yadier Molina for the award, as well. You should really notice anytime Yadi steals a base!

But here's when I got really confused.  Your bullpen is Thompson and Ryan Franklin.  That's all you've got left.  You know that, if you don't take the lead, you have to throw Thompson and you'll have to do it for a while.  You also should know by now that Thompson is not very good.  He can get some outs, but he's not the solid reliever he was earlier in his career.

So why do you then put Ryan Ludwick back in the dugout and send up Brendan Ryan? 

I'm sure that Tony LaRussa had his reasons, but I'd think Ludwick was more likely to give you the deep fly ball that'd score the go-ahead run (meaning Franklin could come in for the save) or put one in the gap to score some insurance.  Ryan was more likely to put the ball on the ground and hit into a double play or, as he did, strike out and leave you with nothing.

It reminded me of TLR's decision in the 2007 All-Star Game not to use Albert Pujols because he wanted him available for extra innings.  There's such a thing as being too prepared.  You've got to take your shot when it's available, because it may not come around again. 

Get the tie, get the lead, then worry about how to hold it.

Next up was Rick Ankiel.  Larry Borowsky, the founder and former author of Viva El Birdos, wrote a great piece in the preseason Maple Street Annual about Ankiel's struggles with scoring opportunities and "close and late" situations. 

Ankiel was awful with a man on third and less than two outs.  I was not surprised that he was zero for two with two strikeouts in bases-loaded situations this year, or that he added to all of that last night.

You have to give Thompson some credit for pitching out of the jam in the ninth, even though he created it with that drive Drew had.  A few feet more and the game's over, there. 

After the Cardinal ninth, though, you knew it was a matter of time and, sure enough, the D-Backs pull it out in the 10th.

The Cardinals have a short turn-around time to put this behind them as they have a 12:40 local time (2:40 St. Louis) game today. 

Jon Garland, one of the Diamondbacks' free agent signings, goes against Joel Pineiro.  Garland hasn't faced the Cards too often, having spent most of his career in the American League. He's not allowed a hit to anyone on the current roster, so that better change today.

Pineiro has looked very good all year long, both in Florida and in his first outing against Houston.  He's had pretty good success with these Arizona hitters, though Stephen Drew beats him around just like he beats around anyone that is wearing Cardinal red. 

With Carpenter going down, the Cardinals need this to be the real Pineiro and not some sort of mirage that will dissipate like fog when the weather warms.

Ludwick seems to be a little antsy with this four-man outfield rotation. Who can blame him?  He was an All-Star last year, who led that team in home runs, and he's back to square one (well, maybe square two) again. 

I honestly think there's going to be a trade of an outfielder before the All-Star Break just to alleviate this situation.  I'm not sure it is sustainable for all that much longer.  They may be hoping that Ankiel will get on a tear and then look to move him.

There was some talk about the All-Star Game this week.  Looks like tickets will be really hard to come by, which isn't news to most people. 

Remember that the United Cardinal Bloggers Radio Hour is on tonight.  Yours truly will be helping out Nick from Pitchers Hit Eighth as we talk about Carpenter, the Arizona series, and anything else Cardinal-related.

We are featuring a UCB member blog during the show.  This week it's Redbird Chatter, so take a look over there and we'll talk to Kathy on the show tonight.

Finally, the Chicago YNOT is up over at CardsClubhouse.  We also have a rotation set up for writing The Bird's Eye View, so Mike from Stan Musial's Stance will be doing that for the Chicago series and should have that up either today or tomorrow morning.

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