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.

Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.