Cheap Seats

Is the potential of a Carpenter comeback this season realistic?

Chris Carpenter seems relatively optimistic that he could make a September return to the Cardinals.

Some media types have scoffed at the thought a guy who has struggled to get healthy all year could suddenly pull it all together and be effective. But I'm excited about the possibilities and believe there is real potential that this could happen.

Carpenter made it through an aggressive 40-pitch bullpen session Tuesday and said the true test would be how he felt the next day. Wednesday Carp reported no ill effects and threw a long toss session. Earlier in the season, when he threw one day he needed several days of rest to recover from a weak feeling in his pitching shoulder.

As a person who has had his share of back problems, I can say that I completely understand how he could go from a terrible problem to a complete cure in a matter of days. When Carpenter had thorasic outlet surgery a month or so ago, the plan was to reduce pressure on pinched nerves that go to his pitching shoulder. It's very similar to having surgery to remove pressure on the spine from a reptured disc: remove the pressure from a nerve and you're instantly better like flipping the pain switch to the off position.

If the surgery worked as planned, there is every reason Carpenter could be ready to throw in a game over the next month. His arm is sound. Those muscles and ligaments don't need to heal. If his rib cage area where the surgery took place isn't too painful to pitch -- and from the sound of it, that doesn't seem to be a problem -- there is no reason he couldn't do his job.

This isn't like last season with Adam Wainwright claiming he wanted to come back early from Tommy John surgery. You can't rush the healing of elbow ligaments. They need time to strengthen and if you come back too soon, months of hard work can be undone. Carp's arm is structurally fine.

Getting in pitching shape is Carp's biggest hurdle. But even if he can't build up his stamina in the next month enough to be a starter, he could be an awfully valuable reliever. Would it be worth it to the Cardinals to have a guy who could take over in the fifth inning if need by and give them three strong innings until it was time for the closer? Sure they could.

And I'm not going to write him off as a starter. In spring training pitchers show up about two weeks before the games start. Then they make four or five starts before the end of camp to be up to speed for the season. So Carpenter could be ready to pitch four or five innings in two or three weeks and have a chance to make three or four starts before the curtain falls on the season.

If the Birds make the playoffs, he'd be an awesome addition to the rotation. He'd basically be in April 1 shape on Oct. 5. And that's got to be a good situation for an arm with so many miles on it. It would be hard to stack up against Wainwright, Carpenter and Loshe.

If they don't make the playoffs, Carp's September performance would give the team a great deal of info about where their ace stands for the 2013 season. There is everything to gain by giving Carp a shot and nothing to lose.

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