After missing nearly all of 2012 due to injury, Chris Carpenter's main focus in 2013 is trying to stay healthy.
By B.J. RAINSFS Midwest
ST. LOUIS – Chris Carpenter acknowledged over the weekend that the 2013 season could be his last as a Major League pitcher. But he also wasn't ready to commit to anything like announcing his retirement.
Carpenter will be 38 years old when his contract runs out at the end of the upcoming season. And after missed nearly all of the 2012 campaign due to injury, he's mainly focused on trying to stay healthy for the Cardinals this year.
But what will happen after this season? Carpenter's not sure.
Asked if he's thought about his future during his media scrum at the Winter Warm-Up over the weekend, Carpenter said that he had.
"Yes, I have and the thoughts are I'm going to pitch this year and see what happens," Carpenter said. "It has to do with how I feel and how my family feels if I want to continue to do it. It's definitely physical. If I have more health issues, I'm not going to continue to try and battle through.
"If I'm healthy and I feel good at the end of the season and I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to have a job, I'll sit down and talk to my wife and kids and see what they want to do."
It's been a successful but frustrating career for the veteran Carpenter, who won the Cy Young Award in 2005 and has won at least 10 games in nine different seasons. Carpenter has pitched more than 2,200 innings and has 1,679 career strikeouts.
But it's hard not to think where Carpenter's career would be had he not missed so much time due to injuries. The right-hander missed most of 2002 and all of 2003 due to injuries while with Toronto and appeared in just five total games in 2007 and 2008 due to eventual Tommy John Surgery while with the Cardinals.
Carpenter also missed the Cardinals World Series run in 2004 after coming up with a nerve issue in September.
After thinking his career might be over prior to a rare surgery last summer that allowed him to return in September, the right-hander is grateful to have a chance to continue his career in 2013.
"It's nice there's no question about that," Carpenter said. "We went into that surgery not knowing and coming out of it being able to pitch again is exciting. I wouldn't have had the surgery if I didn't want to pitch so I'm excited about that.
"I'm excited about the way I feel and we'll see what happens. I want to enjoy this year and go out and compete my butt off with a bunch of guys that have some great talent and a chance to win. I'm excited about that."
Carpenter will make $10.5 million in 2013, the final installment of a two-year, $21 million contract extension he signed late in the 2011 season. His career earnings after the current deal will be just under $100 million dollars, meaning his decision to continue playing wouldn't be finance related.
The right-hander said he felt "a little anxious" and began throwing around December 1, a month earlier than normal. He reports there are no problems and should enter Spring Training 100 percent healthy and ready to go.
The Cardinals would probably like to have Carpenter back in 2014 should he finish 2013 with a healthy and productive season. But with young starters
Trevor Rosenthal and
Joe Kelly ready for rotation spots and
Carlos Martinez and
Michael Wacha not far behind, they could choose to save the money and give his rotation spot to one of them.
Carpenter could retire should the Cardinals not want him back or he could decide to continue his career elsewhere. But at age 39, the right-hander probably wouldn't have a ton of teams knocking at his door to sign him for the amount of money he would require.
It should be a fascinating scenario to watch unfold next winter. But Carpenter's not letting himself look ahead. For now, he's focused on staying healthy and making the most of his opportunity in 2013.
"I'm not concerned about it right now," Carpenter said. "I'm concerned with enjoying this year physically, mentally and going out and having a chance to bring this ballclub back to where we want to be, the World Series."