Carpenter holds out hope as his arm improves

Friday, October 15, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Despite the optimism expressed by injured Cardinals' 15-game winner Chris Carpenter on Wednesday, the team remains pessimistic that he'll get a chance to pitch in the postseason.

Carpenter, the team's top starter, has been out since Sept. 18 with nerve damage to his right biceps. He began playing catch on Wednesday, a day after a medical examination showed the biceps muscle was firing again, and held out hope of pitching in the World Series if the Cardinals can get past the Astros.

"It showed a very large improvement compared to last week, which they weren't expecting," Carpenter said late Wednesday. "It's getting better every day."

Manager Tony La Russa said before Game 1 that there was virtually no chance of Carpenter pitching again this season. On Thursday, his opinion had not changed.

"I wish we had him," La Russa said. "I think our chances are better of winning this thing and the next one if we have Chris. But it seems like it's unrealistic."

Even if Carpenter was healthy, he'd be rusty. And La Russa would have to decide which of the four starters he's using now would sit.

"If he pitches, somebody else doesn't, right?" La Russa said. "I think that's an awful lot to ask and it's kind of unrealistic."

Going batty

Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders got broken-bat hits for St. Louis in the NLCS opener, and Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera shattered a few barrels in Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS.

So what's wrong with the wood?

"That is interesting. I'm not so sure," Houston manager Phil Garner said Thursday. "I think, generally speaking, most guys use thinner-handled bats, which are easier to shatter.

"A lot of bats are maple. Maple has an interesting characteristic because it's a hard piece of wood, but the players seem to think that at a certain number of hits, somewhere in there the bats are going to shatter, whether you hit them dead on center or not," he said. "It's almost like they develop a stress fracture in there over time. I don't know if there's anything to it, but it seems to be the case."

Meeting mania

It's common practice for starting pitchers to meet with the pitching coach and manager before the start of a series. But since the beginning of the postseason, the Cardinals also have had daily bullpen briefings.

Closer Jason Isringhausen said manager Tony La Russa's penchant for attention to detail comes out in this setting.

"We go over it every day," Isringhausen said. "That way we don't forget what's going on. We're a little superstitious here, so we kind of go over things a little methodically."

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