(Baseball StL) -- Carp, it is time to call it a career.
The news this week that oft-injured Cardinal hero Chris Carpenter will shut down his rehab for now was a sad but very predictable development for a 38-year-old pitcher trying to come back from incredibly difficult surgery.
In addition to getting drilled in both his minor league starts, Carpenter experienced numbness, the same symptom that led to the thoracic surgery that has essentially cost him the last two years.
Even attempting to come back after what he went through is admirable and concisely illustrates his character and competitiveness. We will remember him for that as much as his 1-0 deciding game performance against the Phillies in the 2011 playoffs.
But for many reasons, it is time for him to move on with the rest of his life. And let the Cardinals do the same.
Doctors can advise Carpenter on whether he should try to continue. His family can counsel him on whether they fear for his well-being or want him to explore every opportunity, no matter how remote.
But there is another compelling issue that no one wants to discuss but someone must.
His continued comeback effort delays moves the Redbirds can make until they know with certainty of his status. With compelling bullpen sessions of 93+ mph, holding that fifth starter spot open a little while longer seemed like a good idea. Since the Cards didn’t need a fifth starter until this weekend, had his rehab starts been more successful, the Cards may have decided against a deadline trade, letting Joe Kelly keep the seat warm until Carpenter was ready.
Likewise, should it appear more likely that his usefulness would be in relief, someone on the current roster could be moved to a club looking to shore up a struggling pen.
Conversely, should Carp decide after his third rehab start that it wasn’t going to happen, the Cards would be free to pursue a fifth starter, solidify their bullpen and move on in preparation for the post-season.
But what has occurred is the worst of all possible worlds. Will he or won’t he? The obvious answer is that he won’t. But he needs to know that even if the front office already does. Limbo is not a situation conducive to the kind of decisiveness the Cardinals need to demonstrate right now.
They need a veteran starter, not just a fifth starter, but a solid, middle of the rotation guy who can take some of the pressure off Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller and step into a larger role if Jake Westbrook breaks down again.
Joe Kelly is a fine alternative in an emergency and Carlos Martinez may develop into a quality starter, but not this year. That is too much to ask of a young man who started the year in AA.
If one of the four goes down or loses command, the Cards need a guy who can make it rain. And Chris Carpenter will not be that guy, no matter how much we wish we could turn the clock back seven years.
We admired him then and we respect him now. But his moment has passed. Time for him to go quietly, knowing he gave it his last and best shot.