Chris Carpenter will not pitch in 2013 and is considering retirement

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The St. Louis Cardinals just announced in a press conference that it is “very unlikely” that Chris Carpenter will pitch in the 2013 season after suffering physical setbacks during his offseason throwing program.

As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a few minutes ago, Carpenter said earlier this winter that, if he suffered such setbacks, he would not attempt to rehab and come back and would likely retire. That said, Mozeliak just noted that the subject of retirement did not come up in his most recent talk with Carpenter. It’s also worth noting that Carpenter is in the final year of his contract with the Cardinals and is owed $12.5 million for 2013 if he does not retire.

General Manager John Mozeliak said that the issue is continuing numbness and “zingers” in his shoulder and neck, much like what he suffered last year.  Mozeliak says that his role going forward will as a “cheeleader” and a “mentor” but that he will not be pitching.

Carpenter’s career was often brilliant but just as often plagued by injury. Coming up with the Blue Jays, Carpenter missed ample time with various ailments, including shoulder trouble that effectively ended his time there. He finishined his career with the Jays with a 49-50 record in 152 games spread over six seasons. The Cardinals signed him before the 2003 season.

After missing all of 2003 with a torn labrum, he won 15 games in 2004. In 2005 he won 21 games posted an ERA of 2.83 and won the Cy Young Award.  He won 15 again in 2006, finishing third in the Cy Young race, but then the injuries came back to haunt him anew. He made one start in 2007 before being sidelined with bone spurs. While attempting to come back from that he tore his UCL requiring Tommy John surgery. 2007 and almost all of 2008 were a loss.

Back to form in 2009, Carpenter won 17 games, led the league in ERA and finished second in the Cy Young balloting. He threw 235 innings in 2010 and 237.1 innings in 2011, leading the league in starts each year. In Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, Carpenter pitched six innings on three days rest, leading the Cardinals to a 6–2 win over the Texas Rangers.

Carpenter missed most of 2012 following midseason surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. He came back in September and pitched in the postseason.  But, in light of today’s news, that may very well be the end.

If it is the end, Carpenter finishes his career with a record of 144-94 and and ERA of 3.76 in 350 games, 332 of which came as a starter. He threw 2219.1 innings striking out 1697 batters while walking 627.  In the postseason he was 10-4, 3.00 with a K/BB ratio of 68/36 in 108 innings. He’s a three time All-Star, a Cy Young Winner and the 2009 Comeback Player of the Year.

Injuries often preclude greatness. It’s not often that you find a player who was plagued by injuries but, those injuries notwithstanding, can still be called great.  I think Chris Carpenter qualifies.  When he was healthy, he was a wonderful pitcher.  If he had remained healthy, we’d be talking about him as a potential Hall of Famer.  Some things, however, are just not to be.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.