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How serious is Carpenter issue?

Posted Thursday, March 15, 2012, at 8:24 AM

I want to start off by apologizing for the recent hiatus, but we're are about to polish off what is the craziest week of the year for our publication. It's been difficult to find time to sleep some days let alone write my column.

With that said, there has been a lot happen since I last wrote so today I'll buzz through the happenings and share my take.

First, baseball is back! When I get to start digging into box scores and watching games, whether they count or not, is when baseball begins for me. I know it begins at different times for everyone, but Spring Training workouts are when, as a writer, things pick up and I have more to talk about. Regardless of when that time is for you, we survived another winter and can get back to the finer things in life: strike 'em out-throw 'em outs, new coaches, new players and Carpenter beanballs! Well, maybe on that last one. That leads in to item two: Chris Carpenter.

Following one of the best postseason performances in (my) recent memory, Carpenter was bit by the injury bug early for 2012. Slated to take the ball on Opening Day, the big bulldog is now nursing a bulging disc in his neck and is day-to-day.

While we started off 2011 worried about whether he could stay healthy for a season, he pulled through in true ace fashion with a final record that, frankly, wasn't representative of his impressive performance. In October, he not only reminded us how clutch he can be, but he cemented himself in Cardinals history (as if he wasn't there already).

What bothers me about the injury is how little we, or the team, seem to know. Bulging discs can be finicky problems. The most common fix is injury specific exercises. Sometimes a little rest and an injection can fix it, other times it could be surgery. The hope is that Carpenter's answer lies in one of the first two solutions.

As a backup, the team is reportedly readying reliever Lance Lynn for a starting role and he put up good numbers Wednesday in Florida. The move is a big change for him and the team doesn't seem to be comfortable with it either.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the Kyle McClellan rumors are starting up again. The general consensus is that they would prefer to keep Lynn in the bullpen. A trade of some sort might help to keep that possible. Likely they would prefer a guy who can throw in relief or start on occasion if needed. No names have been floated yet, but if it is going to happen we'll have an idea soon I would imagine.

Another possibility is that it might be time to re-visit the Roy Oswalt idea. He's still available and itching to pitch. I wouldn't make any predictions, but if this bulging disc turns out to be a bigger deal they need to get their hands on him now before someone else does. Of course, he has problems of his own, too.

With ongoing back issues, he is a gamble as well. That being said, the Cardinals seem to be a team that likes to gamble this year so maybe they're ready to toss some tokens on a table.

Health is key this year for the Cardinals, but that has already been discussed...and discussed...and discussed. If they can stay healthy, they have a good shot though that theory is already being tested.

Lance Berkman has taken an injection in his knee this week and missed some games. Not much has been said, but it's believed, at least publicly, that he'll be back at the plate soon.

Rafael Furcal dealt with some soreness as well, but is getting back on the field now. Hopefully that is a non-factor.

Carlos Beltran was sick for quite some time and is a little behind schedule, but I wouldn't read anything into that. He's done this a long time and knows the routine. He'll be ready.

I think Furcal and Berkman will be, too.

The big bulldog is the real question mark. Playing through pain is something he's accustomed to, but this isn't like a muscle issue.

The strain a pitcher puts on their body in their approach is immense and when dealing with neck issues can be quite dangerous. At 37, nearing the twilight of his career, I don't think it is worth taking too many chances with for him. Give him the rest he needs and do what needs to be done in the meantime. He showed us in October that he isn't quite finished yet.


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

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Frankly, I still think we messed up big time by not getting Oswalt earlier! I'm not a doctor, but a bulging disc is a serious issue, especially if it is in the neck. After the whole Mark Mulder event that dragged on for years and the same thing with Carp a few years ago because of misdiagnosis and what I still believe to be a pretty poor medical staff the Cards employ I do not trust their evaluation that it is only day-to-day! I frequently communicate with former college pitchers and coaches and they would suggest shutting Carp down for several weeks. Allow the bulge to subside and then allow Carp to pitch in Memphis as his Spring Training. Oswalt's contract may have just went up?!

-- Posted by exzalmanian on Thu, Mar 15, 2012, at 11:55 PM

Most teams have a down season after winning a World Series.

-- Posted by Dustin Ward on Sat, Mar 17, 2012, at 12:56 AM

That's true, but then that reinforces my thought on signing Oswalt.

-- Posted by exzalmanian on Sat, Mar 17, 2012, at 3:30 PM

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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