The Comeback Player is back

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Carpenter says his arm is fine after missing the playoffs with an injury.

The Associated Press

JUPITER, Fla. -- Chris Carpenter couldn't help but feel good about the way his career was headed, going from not throwing a pitch in the major leagues in 2003 to being among the aces of a Cardinals team that won the 2004 NL pennant.

But the 29-year-old right-hander, who won a career-best 15 games in 20 decisions in 2004, missed all of the postseason with a bruised nerve near his right biceps.

Carpenter watched helplessly as the Cardinals -- with his help, winners of 105 games during the regular season -- got swept by the Boston Red Sox in the World Series.

"Obviously it was frustrating," he said Monday at the Cardinals' spring training camp. "Unfortunately, it was at a bad time. But I had to deal with it, and I did."

Carpenter has found that rest can cure what ails.

"I'm ready to go now and I feel no effects of the injury," he said. "I've been throwing off the mound and I feel good. I feel like I'm 100 percent."

He's less clear about the injury itself.

"I don't know what it is. If I did I could explain it," he said. "Basically, the nerve that feeds the biceps wasn't working, so I lost strength in my throwing arm."

It effectively ended what was a banner season for Carpenter, who over 182 innings posted a 3.46 ERA, struck out 152 batters and walked just 38. His .750 winning percentage ranked second in the NL, and his 2.82 ERA after the All-Star break ranked fourth in the league.

In helping lead the Cardinals to the best regular-season record in the majors, Carpenter would have been the team's top starter in the playoffs. Instead, he was lost for the year on Sept. 18, the day the Cardinals clinched the NL Central.

The season was a brilliant comeback for Carpenter, who missed 20 months -- all of the 2001 season and most of 2002 -- while recuperating from a pair of shoulder operations. The 6-foot-6, 230-pounder was named the NL's Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News and Major League Baseball's Players Choice Awards.

Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa is happy that Carpenter appears back to form.

"We wouldn't have got there (to 105 regular-season wins) without him last season," La Russa said. "But injuries are part of the game. Chris feels fine right now, and we are happy to have him back."

La Russa did not see Carpenter pitch batting practice Sunday, though the manager said Monday that "all the reports I received said he is looking great."

Carpenter pitched six seasons for Toronto, going 49-50 with a 4.83 ERA, before signing with St. Louis in December 2002. In 163 starts over his seven-year major league career, Carpenter is 64-55 with a 4.59 ERA.

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