For Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter, the first two innings of his first rehab start Monday night in Springfield went well enough. The third inning, however, was not so hot.
Considering where he has come since early February, the outing overall was a solid step in his attempt to pitch in the majors this season.
Carpenter hit 95 mph on the Hammons Field speed gun, showed a sharp curve and struck out four in his first two innings, but he was unable to make it through the third. Before exiting with two outs, the Arkansas Travelers reached him for a single, double, homer, two walks and two earned runs.
“It was a lot of fun, wish I could have gone a little longer,” Carpenter told reporters after his outing, which was played in front of a sold-out crowd of 9,709. “My stuff was pretty good. I had a couple bad pitches in that last inning that ended in walks. First live game action in a long time and looking to build off of it.”
Expected to throw about 60 pitches, Carpenter threw 54, 28 of them strikes. In the first two innings, he threw a total of 26 pitches — only four balls — as the Travelers swung and missed frequently at breaking pitches outside of the zone.
Carpenter’s line for the night: 2 2/3 innings, six hits, two walks, five strikeouts. Results, however, were not his primary objective.
“The main thing was me working on command with the fastball as priority, then the secondary pitches,” Carpenter said. “I thought I did well except in that last inning when the fastball started to stay up. You work on your body and your pitches and try to get comfortable in a live game situation. You don’t know anything about these kids so you just go out there and work on your stuff.”
Carpenter can spend a max of 30 days in the minors before the Cardinals have to make a decision about putting him on the 25-man roster. If he continues to throw on regular rest, he has enough time to make three more starts before the trade deadline.
As he has maintained for the past 2½ months, Carpenter is not setting any kind of timetable on his return.
“I am still quite a ways away,” he said. “I threw 50 pitches (54) and went through two and two-thirds innings. I have to make a few more starts, then we will talk about it.”
The 37-year-old right-hander was shut down before the start of spring training because he felt numbness in his right hand and arm when he was throwing, a result of nerve issues in his neck and shoulder. At the time, the Cardinals did not plan on him being able to pitch at all this season.
Toward the end of April, Carpenter was playing catch with his 10-year-old son, his arm started to feel stronger and he started working on a comeback. It has been stalled a couple of times because of back tightness and a tired arm.
After throwing a simulated game last week, though, Carpenter said his stuff was as good as it’s been during this process. He was even more pleased with the way his pitches acted Monday.
“The velocity was good, command can always get better, but that will happen with time,” he told reporters. “I definitely felt better than I did after throwing my simulated game last week. I’m just going to build off this and the simulated game. It was really exciting being out there and I am looking forward to the next time I am able to get out there.”
If his next start is in five days, as Carpenter said, he could be pitching in Memphis on Saturday. Springfield is playing at Northwest Arkansas this weekend.
Quotes provided by Kyle Foshe, Springfield Cardinals.
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