Chris Carpenter looks good, preparing to return as a starter

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Not only is Chris Carpenter hoping to pitch this season after making a remarkably fast recovery from July surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, the former Cy Young winner is preparing to return as a starter rather than simply trying to get some innings in out of the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Here’s what general manager John Mozeliak told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com about Carpenter’s status:

Given the guys we have now in our bullpen, you can see some sort of piggyback scenario if it worked out that way. He has to build up his pitch count. Given the fact he hasn’t been able to throw much prior to surgery, he does feel good. It looks like he’s on track to contribute. We’re hopeful that’s what happens. When you look at how Carp was throwing, it was screaming that this deserved an opportunity for consideration. It was really what he was doing [that] allowed us to sort of rethink it.

In other words Carpenter has looked really good throwing bullpen sessions and live batting practice, which is one helluva change from the initial belief that he’d definitely miss all of this season and might not be ready to begin 2013 on the active roster.

Of course, it’s a long way from “looks good throwing on the side” to “looks good enough to trust starting games in a pennant race” but so far so good.

Reds ink Oliver Perez to a minor-league deal

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The Reds have signed free agent reliever Oliver Perez to a minor-league contract, the team announced Saturday. The deal comes with a major-league invite and could be worth $1.25 million if Perez secures a roster spot this spring, with an additional $500,000 in potential performance bonuses.

Perez, 36, is coming off of a two-year run with the Nationals. He produced a 4.64 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 an d10.6 SO/9 through 50 relief appearances and 33 innings with the club in 2017. The veteran lefty hasn’t kept an ERA under 4.00 in at least four seasons, but he continues to be undeniably solid against left-handed batters, holding them to a .227/.301/.364 batting line over 18 1/3 innings last year.

While returning southpaw Wandy Peralta appears to have locked down a bullpen spot already, Perez will still compete for another role against fellow left-handers Cody Reed and Amir Garrett, both of whom also have experience in the rotation. If Perez doesn’t break camp with the team, MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon notes, he’ll be permitted to opt out of his contract. The Reds are currently looking to bounce back from a dismal performance in 2017, one in which their bullpen ranked 28th among major league teams with a collective 5.63 ERA and -1.2 fWAR.