(Baseball StL) -- Chris Carpenter appears to be well on his way to making yet another comeback. He pitched a simulated game Wednesday afternoon and received rave reviews from the players who batted against him.
He’ll make his first rehab start at AA Springfield on Monday. The Cardinals would love to have a healthy Carpenter back on their roster, but his presence does create complications and many questions.
What’s the best way to use Carpenter now, as a starter or reliever? If he’s a starter, how long can he be expected to pitch in a game? It’s hard to imagine he’d be ready to throw 100 pitches anytime soon.
It’s been 13 years since he last pitched a game out of the bullpen. Would he be effective in that role? Would he even accept a role as a reliever? If the current 5th starter, Joe Kelly, is putting up quality starts would it make sense to send him to the bullpen to make room for Carpenter?
To his credit, Carpenter understands that what he’s done in the past doesn’t guarantee him a starting role in the future. Carpenter said “There are some tests I have to pass. I’ve got to prove I can stay healthy and prove I’m good enough to take one of these guys’ spots because what I’ve done in the past doesn’t mean I get an opportunity to kick someone out of here when we’re doing so well.”
Carpenter is a powerful presence in the clubhouse, and his comeback is closely monitored by the media. His comeback effort hasn’t created a “media circus” yet, but it might once he becomes closer to major league game ready.
Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak would welcome the circus atmosphere if Carpenter can successfully turn back the clock and become a dominant starter again. But if he can’t, and he struggles to be effective when he’s healthy, they’ll have some very difficult decisions to make regarding the future of Chris Carpenter, and the way they handle the Cardinals starting rotation in final the months of the season.