UPDATE: It’s official, Carpenter is starting on short rest.
Here’s Tony La Russa’s rather simple explanation, via R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press:
“He’s the guy our club wants to have out there, and he’s ready to take it. Plain and simple. He’s our guy.”
Tony La Russa might wait until the last possible moment to officially announce tonight’s Game 7 starter, but Matthew Leach of MLB.com reports that the Cardinals will turn to Chris Carpenter on short rest.
Leach tweeted the following shortly after emerging from the Cardinals’ clubhouse last night:
Was told by someone who would most definitely know: “You know who’s starting tomorrow.”
Kyle Lohse has been the scheduled Game 7 starter and Jake Westbrook or Edwin Jackson are other options, but Wednesday night’s rainout pushed everything back by one day and allows La Russa to turn to Carpenter on three days’ rest.
Carpenter had never started on short rest during his entire career until Game 1 of the NLDS versus the Phillies. And he struggled, allowing four runs in three innings while walking three and striking out two. Since then he’s 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts, including a complete-game shutout against Philadelphia in his follow-up to the short-rest outing.
Generally speaking pitchers starting on short rest have a pretty terrible playoff track record during the past decade or so and Carpenter making just one (poor) short-rest start in 14 seasons as a big leaguer makes him a big question mark, but if he wants the ball and the alternatives are Lohse, Jackson, or Westbrook it’s not hard to see why La Russa would put the entire season in the hands of his ace.
Mark Buehrle last pitched in 2015, for the Toronto Blue Jays. He was still pretty effective and toyed with the idea of pitching last season, but he never signed anywhere and is, for all intents and purposes, retired.
Now at least his number will be retired officially. It will be done by the club for which he had the most success and with which he is, obviously, most associated:
Buehrle pitched for the White Sox for 12 years. He was the model of consistency and durability in Chicago, logging over 200 innings a season in every single season but his rookie year, when he was primarily a reliever. He was a solid defender, a multi-time All-Star, tossed a perfect game in 2009 and helped the Chisox to their first World Series title in 88 years in 2005.
He was also one of baseball’s fastest workers, so I’m going to assume that, in his honor, the number retirement ceremony will last, like, a minute 20, after which everyone can get on with their dang day.
Terry Francona just won the American League pennant, the Manager of the Year Award and his Cleveland Indians will likely be among the favorites to win it all in 2017. Between that and his 17-year track record as one of the best managers in the business, he will have a job, somewhere, for as long as he wants one.
He said yesterday, however, that his body will likely limit how long he manages:
“It gets harder and harder physically. It really does. It takes me longer to recharge every year . . . I’ve had a lot of surgeries, a lot of health problems. It just takes a toll on you. I love [the game of baseball]. I really do, but I can’t see myself doing something else. But there is going to come a day when I feel like I’m shortchanging the team or the organization. That’s not fair.
“Even now, during batting practice, I’ll come in and get off my feet a little bit. I think everybody understands. But when there comes a day when it gets in the way, I’m going to have to pull back, and it’s not because I don’t love managing. You have to have a certain amount of energy to do this job right.”
Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him.
With multiple World Series rings there isn’t much more in baseball that Francona can accomplish, but here’s hoping he sticks around and accomplishes a lot more before he trades in his baseball spikes for golf spikes and calls it a career.