Chris Carpenter’s comeback keeps chugging along … possibly as a starter

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Chris Carpenter threw another problem-free bullpen session yesterday, continuing an unexpected comeback from spine and shoulder problems that initially threatened to end his career.

Instead he’s eying a minor-league rehab assignment at some point within the next two weeks, assuming the 38-year-old can avoid a setback while throwing a few more bullpen sessions.

“I don’t want to get ahead of myself,” Carpenter told Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com. “I want to slowly get back involved and make sure that I’m doing the things that I need to do to be ready when it’s time.”

But here’s a twist: While most people had assumed any comeback would be as a reliever, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Carpenter’s work patterns in the bullpen sessions appear to have him conditioning himself to be a starter. Him returning at all would be a helluva story, but as a starter? Wow.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.