Big Carp Back on the Hook

Not good, very un-cool news about Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter today: after slowly working his way back from neck stiffness early during Spring Training, the defending World Series champions shut down their big righty and sent him back to The Lou for further testing.

Just when the Cardinals looked like they would get down to the business of defending their (wholly improbable but still very much a thing that happened in our world) 2011 World Series championship with their two best arms back in the fold, it looks like Chris Carpenter will start the season on the disabled list.

Cards beat writer Jenifer Langosch has some a telling quote from Cards GM John Mozeliak on the cautious approach taken with Carp:

“Things weren’t just quite right,” general manager John Mozeliak said. “I would use the term weakness. For precautionary reasons, we just think it’s time to take a timeout, have him evaluated. We’re trying to determine if it’s the neck, the shoulder and what’s causing the weakness. We don’t know the answer to that yet.”

Depending on your perspective, the vague nature of this injury is either a blessing or a curse. A blessing in that it might be nothing, just some frayed nerve or tweaked muscle. On the other hand…it could be something strange or Rocco Baldelli-ish in its scope of tragedy and heartbreak.

Luckily, all tests on Carpenter are thus far negative. Langosch reports Carpenter has a history of nerve problems so the hope is this is something that can be treated or dealt with in a manner similar to those previous woes.

As always, any time missed by Carpenter is a blow to the Cardinals chances. The Cardinals decision to stretch out Lance Lynn looks extra wise now, as there is an increasingly likelihood that the big righty will make a few starts before Memorial Day. Lynn, to his eternal credit, is pitching like a lunatic this spring, striking out eight against just one walk in eleven Grapefruit innings.

No matter how well Lance Lynn pitches, he is not Chris Carpenter. The Cards managed to defy the odds (all of them. All of the odds) and win the World Series without Adam Wainwright last year, it is much more difficult to imagine them doing so with Chris Carpenter missing significant time in 2012.

Professional troll Joe Strauss astutely notes that Chris Carpenter is one month shy of his 37th birthday yet managed to pitch 273.1 innings last season. Unrelated to potential nerve damage as that staggering workload might be, it is entirely possible that Carpenter’s career from this point forward might look very different to this years of his prime.

Losing one of the game’s best pitchers not only hurts the Cardinals chances but it makes the baseball world a worse place. So hurry back, Carp. Your insane yelps on the mound light up our lives.