Chris Carpenter on the verge of rejoining Cardinals rotation

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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.

Matt Carpenter hit a standup bunt double

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The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.

The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.

In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.

Most of the time anyway.

Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:

One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.

The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.