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Is Jaime Garcia's injury more devastating than Carpenter's?

Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012, at 8:59 AM

The St. Louis Cardinals have had their share of injuries in 2012.

While every team has its struggles with health, the Cardinals have lost numerous impact players, and the first half of the season is still a few days from over.

Losing Chris Carpenter during spring training and then his recent setback may have fans discouraged, but he may not be the biggest loss.

In terms of sheer numbers and skill, Carpenter is a huge loss. But injured LHP Jaime Garcia may be an even bigger hit to a team that has struggled to gain its footing prior to this week.

Read ahead for 10 reasons the loss of Garcia could potentially be more devastating for the Cardinals.

1. He's the only lefty

On a right-handed heavy starting rotation, Garcia is the only southpaw.

The Cardinals have often been criticized for carrying so few left-handers, and this most recent injury leaves them entirely right-handed.

With the majority of batters being right-handed, left-handed pitchers quite often stymie their opponents.

Yes, Garcia has struggled some in 2012, but when he pitches, the team can expect to be "kept in the game."

The 25-year-old lefty is 3-4 with a 4.48 earned-run average in 11 starts this season.

Despite his last couple of outings, Garcia has been quite solid, giving up only two home runs, 19 walks and 34 runs. All of those numbers are well on pace to beat his record in previous years.

2. Shoulder injuries can haunt pitchers

Cardinals fans know as well as anyone what shoulder injuries can mean to a player.

When the Cardinals picked up LHP Mark Mulder from the Oakland A's, they didn't realize what they had gotten into. Mulder was plagued by rotator cuff issues from the start.

When he was diagnosed, the team opted for therapy and rest, similar to Garcia. When that didn't work, they opted for the surgery.

The results were the same. The Cardinals tried to nurture him through the remainder of his contract, but Mulder was never the same.

Hopefully, Garcia's fate will be more positive.

3. Carpenter is signed through next season, Garcia through 2015

One thing that could potentially make Garcia's injury more problematic is the fact that he is under contract through 2015 with options for 2016-17.

Chris Carpenter, on the other hand, is only under contract through the end of 2013.

Should Garcia's injury turn out to be a more serious situation that reported, the Cardinals could potentially be left to shoulder several years of a contract.

That's a worst-case scenario, but it is a possibility.

4. Best replacement option is already filling in for Carp

The best and most logical long-term starter replacement in the Cardinals system, Lance Lynn, is already filling in for Carpenter.

With the Cardinals bringing up Joe Kelly to fill in for Garcia, the rotation takes at least a minor blow.

While Kelly has been quite impressive to date, he has still yet to prove himself over more than a small handful of starts. It's entirely possible he will turn out to be better than expected, but he remains unproven for the time being.

With that said, he is certainly putting up better numbers than Garcia was with his injury, so for the time being he's been an asset to the team. The unanswered question is, can he keep it up?

5. Lynn has struggled in last two outings

With Garcia out of the rotation, Lance Lynn's success is even more vital than it already was.

In his last two starts, however, Lynn has been at his season worst.

It's been short-term at this point, but the Cardinals have taken notice. If Lynn reaches the point where they feel he is beginning to tire, they would likely send him back to the bullpen.

That may not be an option anymore.

With Carpenter's recent setback and Garcia on the DL as well, the Cardinals need Lynn to perform.

6. Losing a second Top-3 starter

Losing Garcia means the Cardinals are out another top-three starting pitcher.

With Carpenter down, this is a luxury they can't afford. While there is hope Garcia could be out less than two months, it is not a guarantee.

If by the All-Star break he is not showing serious signs of improvement, general manager John Mozeliak will likely have to address the issue via trade before the July 31 deadline.

7. Farm system is quickly depleting this year

With the vast amount of injuries, the Cardinals have quickly begun to empty their top-notch farm system.

Were things in AAA Memphis going as planned, the logical move would have been an early promotion for Shelby Miller, one of the top five prospects in all of MLB.

Miller, however, has had a rough year. He's surrendered 15 home runs in 66 innings pitched and inflated his ERA to 6.0. In a total of 14 starts, Miller has given up 18 hits and 44 earned runs.

Miller skipped his most recent start in Memphis as coaches continue to give him some extra attention in an effort to line his issues out before his projected 2013 move to St. Louis.

8. Surgery is not on the table

That the Cardinals have yet to consider surgery as an option is both a good and bad thing.

The good news is, surgery means a guaranteed extended stay on the DL with a lengthy period of rehab--especially for a pitcher.

It's also good news because rotator cuff surgery, unlike Tommy John surgery, does not have near the same success rate. It's hit or miss whether the surgery will work to the extent that he would regain the ability to be an effective starting pitcher.

The bad news about surgery is that if it turns out later he needs it, all of this time on the DL will have been a waste.

9. He may have had this problem for a while

It was mentioned in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently that it's uncertain how long he has suffered from this injury.

Garcia's initial indication of elbow discomfort followed by a "clean" MRI suggests he had been compensating for the shoulder issue for some time; however, the club has yet to indicate how long it has harbored concerns about Garcia's shoulder.

If this turns out to be a problem he has played through for quite some time, it could make it considerably more difficult to heal without surgery.

A complete shutdown is exactly what he needed. The question is, how long has he needed it?

Garcia had multiple examinations before it was officially announced that he had a torn rotator cuff and labrum.

10. Return timetable is very uncertain

The uncertainty regarding his return puts the Cardinals in an awkward place as the trade deadline looms.

The official word is that he won't throw a baseball for four weeks and it will likely be two months before he returns to St. Louis.

Even that's not a guarantee. The Cardinals continue to pick up the slack with him gone, but the team definitely needs the old Garcia back as soon as possible.

Is his injury a larger problem for the Cardinals than Carpenter's? Yes and no. One thing is for sure, the Cardinals would prefer they both return to the active roster sooner rather than later.


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/

Follow him on Twitter @coreynoles

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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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