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NH's Chris Carpenter will miss Cardinals' season; baseball career in jeopardy

Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat

February 05. 2013 10:14PM

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter (29) in the dugout after pitching in game three of the 2012 NLDS at Nationals Park. (Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports)

ST. LOUIS - New Hampshire native Chris Carpenter, plagued by the lingering effects of thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, will miss the entire 2013 season and likely will not pitch again for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, appearing with manager Mike Matheny on Tuesday at a Busch Stadium news conference, said Carpenter, a graduate of Trinity of Manchester, called him Friday and explained that his arm was not responding to increased-intensity workouts.

"After numerous attempts at throwing bullpens, he is still feeling the same discomfort, zingers, numbness that he was experiencing during last year's season," Mozeliak said. "He just felt like, at this point, he could no longer continue to try to throw.

"He will be given an opportunity to seek medical evaluations by our team physicians at Mercy (Hospital). Our hope is that we can find if there's any resolution to this, but at this time, I doubt that's going to happen. Based on how he feels and the reaction he's getting from when he throws, it's very unlikely he's going to pitch for us."

Mozeliak said Carpenter, 37, told him he also was experiencing discoloration in his right hand, and added that Carpenter was noticeably downcast during their conversation.

"He was extremely ... He was sad, actually," Mozeliak said. "I didn't see him live; I was talking to him on the phone. But he was definitely teary-eyed and I think he felt, to some degree, he was letting us down. I assured him that could be no further from the truth and that we were grateful for everything he's done for this organization."

Carpenter opted against attending the news conference.

"Until he goes through the medical evaluation, before he actually exposes himself to the media, he would rather have all his ducks in a row," Mozeliak said. "He just didn't have a whole lot to add at this point, and as you can imagine, he's hurting a little bit."

Carpenter's absence creates an opening in the rotation, which consists of Adam Wainwright, Jake Westbrook, Lance Lynn and, if healthy, Jaime Garcia.

Mozeliak didn't close the door on the Cardinals re-signing Kyle Lohse, but said younger pitchers like Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller and Joe Kelly will receive the first opportunities.

"I think right now, we're comfortable with what we have," Mozeliak said. "This is news to us. We haven't had a team meeting over this topic yet. We're all going to be down in Jupiter (Fla.) next Monday. It will be something we discuss, but right now, both Mike and I feel pretty good about the arms we have coming to camp. ... We're extremely optimistic about this group of pitchers."

Matheny concurred.

"We have some arms that have proven what they can do, some of them out of the pen," Matheny said. "We're anxious to see what they can do with the opportunities we give them to start in spring."

Carpenter began feeling numbness and tingling in his right arm during spring training last year. He eventually underwent thoracic outlet surgery July 19 in Dallas, a procedure that removed Carpenter's first rib and was expected to relieve pressure on the nerve that was causing the numbness and tingling.

Carpenter, against all odds, returned and made three late-season starts, then made three more in the postseason. Speaking at the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up two-plus weeks ago, Carpenter was upbeat about his chances to rejoin the rotation this season.

"What happened was he started ramping up his bullpens," Mozeliak said. "Prior to last week, he had been throwing (and) had basically a normal offseason, which he was feeling very good about. But he hadn't pushed it; he hadn't had to make that higher velocity-type throw, and once he started to do that is when he started to experience the discomfort again."

Carpenter is 144-94 in a 15-year career, including 95-44 with the Cardinals. His most memorable performance came in the deciding Game 5 of the 2011 NL Division Series when he blanked Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies 1-0.

The Cardinals went on to beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Championship Series and the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Carpenter was 10-4 with a 3.00 ERA in 18 career postseason starts.

Injuries were an all-too-frequent visitor for Carpenter. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2007, then underwent a 2008 procedure that transposed a nerve into his elbow.

"When you think about him and what he did on the field, there's no doubt he was one of the best when healthy," Mozeliak said. "He's probably one of the most competitive players I've ever been around. He truly willed himself to want to win.

"If you think about all the injuries that he went through over his career, he always found a way to get back on the field and contribute in a positive way. I'll always admire that about him."

Matheny was Carpenter's catcher with the Cardinals from 2000-04 and was very familiar with Carpenter's edge.

"I don't know if I've ever witnessed a better competitor than Chris - and also leader," Matheny said. "So as we head into spring now there's certainly a void there, but there's an opportunity. We have to have some other guys step up."

Matheny called Carpenter "a real throwback in the game."

"He commanded respect by how he went about his business, how he treated people, how he played the game and how he loved to play the game," Matheny said. "Those things ... will always be synonymous with Chris Carpenter.

"He had an intimidating presence at times, especially even for the younger players. But they watched real close and they saw how he prepared. They saw how seriously he took this. He was playing a game and it is fun, but when he walked between the lines, he was all business."

Carpenter won the NL Cy Young Award in 2005 when he was 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA in 33 starts, with seven complete games. He led the NL in ERA at 2.24 in 2009 and won at least 10 games nine times.

Mozeliak said Carpenter, who lives in St. Louis, would have value to the Cardinals even if he isn't pitching.

"My hope is that he still comes around and still makes himself available from time to time," Mozeliak said.

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