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Chris Carpenter: To start or relieve?

Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter just a few days ago was reported to be plotting a comeback that called for him to try to help out the club's beleaguered bullpen.

But the reports about his workouts sure seem to indicate that Carpenter is priming the pump for a return to starting. He's pitching 50-70 pitches at a time with breaks in the middle to simulate working over multiple innings. That may be a method to put his problematic shoulder to the maximum test. But it sure seems like overkill for a guy who would pitch one or maybe two innings an appearance.

If Carpenter is truly working toward starting, it is likely a sign that things are going much better than expected in his bid to return. It's also a sign that the Cardinals are satisfied that their suspect bullpen has been settled.

A couple of weeks ago a reliable right arm in the late innings was a top priority. But Trevor Rosenthal suddenly straightened out when his mentor Carpenter returned. Joe Kelly has been sighted and rookies Seth Maness and Carlos Martinez have pitched well.

While starting pitching has been a strength with the Redbirds sporting the top starting rotation ERA in all of baseball, the club is going to need rotation help at some point. Jake Westbrook has an elbow problem, Jaime Garcia has had a bum shoulder and Shelby Miller hasn't pitched a whole year in the majors yet. One of the current starters will undoubtably fade or go down to injury before this year is in the books.

I've said since the beginning of the season that, while the Cardinals have the starters to make the playoffs, they could use an experienced hired gun when the postseason rolls around. It would sure be a luxury if that gunslinger came was carpenter, not somebody the Birds had to part with young talent to get.