Chris Carpenter’s miraculous comeback from what was supposed to be season-ending thoracic outlet syndrome surgery is nearly complete, with just one more hurdle to clear before rejoining the Cardinals’ rotation.
Carpenter is scheduled to throw a 90-pitch simulated game Saturday and Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that “barring any surprise development Carpenter is set to make his season debut next week.”
Carpenter last started for the Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series. He pitched that night on three days’ rest and logged a grand total of 273 innings between the regular season and playoffs at age 36.
He was shut down during spring training after experiencing numbness in his arm and neck. Surgery in July was expected to knock him out for all of this season and put his status for 2013 in question, but Carpenter told Langosch that he was holding out hope for a quicker return all along:
I went into [surgery] strong enough and knew that if I came out of it strong enough, I thought there was a chance. My goal the whole time was to be prepared to let these guys know how I felt at the end of the season so they could go into the offseason knowing what they could count on me for next season.
In other words, even Carpenter never imagined starting multiple key games down the stretch this year, which is exactly what may happen if he can get through tomorrow’s session healthy.
According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.
There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.
Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.
ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.
Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.
The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.
Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.