I'm getting a little nervous about the way the Cardinals are handling ace starting pitcher Chris Carpenter this spring.
I agree with it. The birds rode on the big guy's surgically rebuilt arm throughout the season and into the post-season and he's not getting any younger. But it just makes me a little bit uneasy that the team is making such a big production out of the need to take it easy on Carpenter. I'd feel a lot better about it if they announced that he was sound and that there was no need to do anything different than they would do any other year.
While he's great when he's healthy, Carpenter has a history of significant breakdowns about every three or four years. He spent a whole year on the bench with the Birds after arriving from Toronto in 2003. Then he blew out his arm in the first game of the 2007 season -- after he was heavily taxed in a long season and then a grueling post-season run -- which caused him to miss nearly two entire seasons...
The Cardinals are getting Adam Wainwright back. But when they lost Wainwright last season, they had a monster offense they could count on and the return of Kyle Lohse from injury to help offset the blow. The team couldn't absorb the loss of Carpenter so easily. Not only does the club not have Albert Pujols in the offense to help give it a large margin for pitching error, but Wainwright can't be counted on to turn in a Cy Young kind of performance while he tries to rebuild his arm strength and re-harness his control after spending a year on the shelf.
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Carpenter is also the guy the Cardinals players look to for leadership off the field.
While this team has a lot of good players and a lot of potential, in a lot of ways, I think Carpenter is the guy it could least afford to lose.