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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Carpenter, Miller and playoff-race piggybacking

Pessimism and trade rumors about St. Louis Cardinals pitching prospect Shelby Miller have evolved to major league reality for the 21-year-old with his Tuesday promotion to St. Louis.

Pessimism over injury to and recovery of Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter have evolved to public hopes that the 37-year-old can take the mound in September for the first time this season.  In fact, the optimism extends to Carpenter not only pitching in game action, but to start one or more games down the final stretch.

On Monday, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak explained to B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest that Carpenter would not return to active duty until he could throw 90 pitches. In a piggyback or tandem arrangement, he could be paired with “guys we have now in our bullpen,” offered by Mozeliak – without naming names.

With the Cardinals in the midst of a tight wild card race, the benefits of a successful Carpenter return seem many, especially for a club whose veteran core is struggling mightily with injuries.

Then, there is the recognition of past success. Somehow it seems completely unfair that the man who may have been most responsible for last season’s title has not been able to take the field even once sporting the World Champions patch on his sleeve.

Such a move would not come without risk to an inconsistent 2012 club whose every remaining game matters greatly, but the uncertainty can be reduced by having a proven starter ready to follow Carpenter. With the minor league seasons ending, the piggyback might be the next best thing to a rehab start or two. It is a common arrangement with pitchers in the lower levels of the minor league system, but unusual in the majors.

Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch takes a Miller perspective, quoting Mozeliak as not ruling out the possibility of Miller being given a start of his own later in the month. It is not clear what Miller’s chances of starting are hinged on – Carpenter not being ready, the team’s playoff status at the time or other factors.

Goold wonders aloud if the two – aging ace and young gun – could be paired up in a tandem arrangement with Miller being the one to follow Carpenter in a scripted pitching game plan.

Not mentioned, but seemingly among the other candidates, are two experienced starters recently moved to the bullpen.

With all the recent excitement about Miller, Trevor Rosenthal seems an almost-forgotten man.  Not long ago, the 22-year-old rocketed up prospect lists and passed Miller in terms of MLB readiness earlier this summer. Rosenthal reached the majors in July, initially cast as a reliever, and is back for September. He also started 20 games in the minors this season, the most recent on August 22, and had a more consistent 2012 than Miller at the same level of play. Already up before September 1, Rosenthal would require no roster gyrations to be post-season eligible. Has he earned a major league start or tandem appearance more than Miller?

Then, there is the enigma called Lance Lynn. A National League All-Star in the first half as a starter is now a struggling reliever. Since moving back to the bullpen, Lynn has allowed five runs, four earned, in 3 1/3 innings for a 10.80 ERA. He has yielded eight hits and two walks and fanned just two. Would a return to a more fixed role fix Lynn’s problems?

If Carpenter was ready to start, how might the Cardinals make room for him?

Carp could either take the turn of a member of the current rotation or allow all five an extra day of rest. The latter would turn the rotation into a short-term six-man arrangement. In the former case, that “skipped” starter could be rested completely or be the one to relieve Carpenter, while still pitching on his regular starting day.

What do you think will happen over the final 27 games? Vote in the two polls below.

Who will make the most starts for the St. Louis Cardinals between now and the end of the regular season?

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If Carpenter was ready to pitch but needed a piggyback partner, who would you select to follow him?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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55 Responses to “Carpenter, Miller and playoff-race piggybacking”

  1. CariocaCardinal says:

    At 90 pitches, Carpenter hopefully wouldn’t need a piggyback partner. those two things seem inconsistent (90 pitches and piggyback).

    • Brian Walton says:

      I don’t necessarily see it that way. Last season, at peak efficiency, Carpenter averaged 15.2 pitches per inning. Let’s say a rusty Carp who hasn’t pitched in a game for a year needs 20. If so, he’d only make it halfway through the fifth inning, leaving the other half of the game for the pen.

      Plus, given the uncertainty, they have to be ready in case he can’t get to 90.

  2. crdswmn says:

    “Kary Booher ‏@karybooherNL

    Hearing the Double-A Cards will have a couple of “tweaks” to the roster for the Texas League playoffs.”

    Rehab stint for Carpenter?

  3. blingboy says:

    Any guesses on Miller’s uni number?

  4. blingboy says:

    Miller becomes the youngest guy on the active roster, born 10/10/90.

    Without looking it up, who can guess the next two youngest guys?

  5. blingboy says:

    Aside. Hope nobody minds, but I wanted to call attention to a new baseball movie due out later this month called ‘Trouble with the Curve’. Clint Eastwood is an aging scout in failing health thought by some to be having trouble keeping up with the evolution of the game. He heads out on a last scouting road trip and is pressured to take along his daughter ‘to make sure he’s OK’. So they set off for the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

    You will have to buy a ticket to find out the rest.

  6. blingboy says:

    I wonder what happened to DD on that shot by Wright. Hard hit, but just a few feet to his left.

  7. blingboy says:

    Since Matt tweeked his back he probably shouldn’t be swinging at knucklers tonight, especially the way he swings. So maybe a different look lineup. Great pitching matchup.

    Nice win last night. I especially liked throwing three starters out there. Maybe a couple more tonight. ? ! That’ll learn ’em.

  8. blingboy says:

    Wainy suffered from the defensive limitations of the lineup behind him. First, Carlos wasn’t able to cut off what really should have been a single. A combination of the wet field and bad knees kept him from doing what it would have taken. Then DD couldn’t keep the hopper up the middle from going on through. So we’re down by a run.

  9. blingboy says:

    “I especially liked throwing three starters out there. Maybe a couple more tonight. ? ! ”


  10. blingboy says:

    Looked like a breaking ball of some kind he got the second out with. If so, I can understand his reluctance. Broke maybe 3 inches.

  11. blingboy says:

    Nothing wrong with his ability to locate the FB. Nice job.

  12. crdswmn says:

    Anybody think Waino has hit a wall? He’s pitched over 170 innings now.

  13. blingboy says:

    Another dribbler through the infield, this one well to the 2B side. Jeesh.

  14. blingboy says:

    Baseball isn’t fair sometimes. I’m hoping we get to their pen and deny Dickey the win, thereby helping Cueto’s Cy Young chances.

  15. crdswmn says:

    Cripes, Matheny just continues to bring in the wrong pitchers at the wrong time.

  16. crdswmn says:

    I was expecting a loss here. At least we don’t face Dickey anymore this season.


    1. Getting a little concerned about Waino. Maybe skipping a start wouldn’t hurt.
    2. Getting more and more frustrated with Matheny’s bullpen pitching choices.
    3. Letting MCarp play at 2B might not be the worst move in certain situations.
    4. Beltran’s hitting slump is worrisome. He isn’t moving in the field well either.
    5. Why is Victor Marte here?

    • Bw52 says:

      Crdswmn-some interesting observations.
      1.Agree-Wainwright would probably fight tooth and nail if MM tried to make AW miss a start.
      2. Are you speaking about MMs choice of the pitcher he brings in or the pitchers he has to choose from……….
      Either way MM has made some rookie mistakes………..
      3.I will take your word for that……………..
      4.Beltran has been going badly for a while now.Maybe Cards should see if he can be traded this winter.
      5.Agree.Why isn`t somebody here who has some upside.

      • crdswmn says:

        1. Waino said on the post game show that it was a mechanical issue with his arm slot and that he can fix it. I hope so.
        2. I’m speaking about who he chooses to bring in in certain situations.
        3. I don’t mean he should start at 2B every game, but some time there wouldn’t hurt if he can handle it.
        4. Beltran has a no trade clause and I don’t think such a drastic move is required.
        5. Browning might have been a better choice.

        • Nutlaw says:

          3/4. Beltran has had a .631 OPS in July and a .666 OPS in August. Matt Carpenter hit .799 and .966 during those same time periods. Forget second base. Carpenter needs the first base job while Craig moves to RF.
          5. Or at least Cleto?

          I thought that Berkman was supposed to be too injured to do anything but pinch hit in September? How did he start at 1B? I agree with bling: bench the old men.

          • crdswmn says:

            I hesitate to write off Beltran because I keep thinking he has to snap out of it sometime. And I don’t like any of our current options at 2B one bit. Jackson needs to play SS full time and Kozma needs to ride the bench. Do matchups with DD at 2B and MCarp and Skip the rest of the time with Skip seeing righties only and not all of those, just the ones he has good numbers against because his bat is useful, but not his glove. If we are going to have a sub optimal glove at 2B I would rather it were MCarp because his bat is the best of the bunch.

        • Brian Walton says:

          1. At least they didn’t say he was tipping his pitches… 😉

    • blingboy says:

      Furcal’s range was not good, but his absense has meant a downgrade in range at short, and at second, with DD moving over. IMO it is really hurting us. I propose we put DD back at 2nd to restore the D at that position at least. Put Jackson at short. The loss of a few ABs for MCarp would be a negative, but we have to have D up the middle. Bottom line.

      Niether Beltran nor Berkman need to be out there right now, and certainly not in the heart of the order. Niether can contribute enough O to make up for the D. Not right now, at least.

      Marte is here so that if its a three run game and we need a guy to pitch the eighth he can come in and if he gives up a leadoff double he can go out. MM didn’t get the memo I guess.

  17. Kansasbirdman says:

    I read that Miller pitched 2 scoreless innings with 4 k’s? Did I read that right? Was this his debut?

    • crdswmn says:

      Yes, and yes.

    • blingboy says:

      Threw a couple balls to the first guy, then settled in. Struck out the side his second inning. His fastball was not overly fast and didn’t look like it had great movement, but it does seem to jump out of his hand as had been reported, and location was pinpoint. Up, down, in, out. Very impressive. His breaking ball and change up didn’t appear anything special, but got the job done. Deceptive maybe. Impressive. Can’t wait for his next outing.

      Would be interested in other takes on his performance.

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