Chris Carpenter could return as a reliever

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The Cardinals’ starting rotation is doing quite well thus far, leading baseball with an aggregate 2.07 ERA. Their bullpen, on the other hand, brings up the rear at 5.67. They have lost Jason Motte for the season as the right-hander will undergo Tommy John surgery. Mitchell Boggs’ stint at closer was short-lived as his 12.66 ERA in 10.2 innings earned him a demotion to Triple-A Memphis. Marc Rzepczynski, too, was demoted to Memphis with a 7.88 ERA. It’s ugly.

What are the Cardinals to do about their bullpen? According to Joe Strauss, John Mozeliak’s hope is that 2005 Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter will be able to rejoin the team in the summer and serve the team as a reliever as summer approaches.

This is no stunt or pat on the head to a veteran unwilling to concede the obvious. Both parties believe Carpenter can potentially address the gash to the bullpen’s starboard side.

“I’m candidly optimistic and excited about him contributing,” Mozeliak says.

Carpenter remains on the team’s 60-day disabled list, meaning he can not be activated sooner than the end of this month. Though no formal timetable is in place, Mozeliak thinks a projected return in late June or early July reasonable.

Though not the norm, it isn’t surprising to see an injured starter returning as a reliever. John Smoltz is an example that immediately comes to mind. Livan Hernandez pitched out of the bullpen last year with the Braves and Brewers after having made 474 consecutive starts between 1997-2011, though not with much success.

Cubs sign Jeremy Jeffress

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The Chicago Cubs have signed reliever Jeremy Jeffress to a one-year, $850,000 deal.

While Jeffress is coming off a bad year — due mostly to hip and shoulder problems — this is a surprisingly low figure for Jeffress, who was said to have had a “sizable market” last September, with the Mets, Phillies, Reds, and Rays all rumored to be in on him. It’s also worth noting that he is just a year removed from an excellent 1.29 ERA season with the Brewers. He is reported to be eligible for $200,000 in incentives, which could bring this deal closer to what a reliever of his caliber’s going rate might be.

As for the Cubs, they haven’t been particularly active this offseason — indeed, this is their first free agent acquisition — but I suppose we should give them credit for buying low on a guy who should probably be able to help their bullpen.