Carpenter signs 2-year deal with Cardinals

Chris Carpenter never wanted to leave St. Louis. The Cardinals
never wanted to see the former Cy Young Award winner go.

Still, there were moments this season, as the months passed and
his club option for 2012 loomed, when the veteran right-hander
wondered if he was a part of the team’s future.

”As the year went on it was definitely a concern,” Carpenter
said.

Not anymore.

Carpenter signed a $21 million, two-year contract with the
Cardinals on Tuesday that will keep him around until at least
2013.

”We believe with him and Adam Wainwright we do have that 1-2
punch that we were so hopeful for this year and are glad it can be
something we look forward to for 2012 and ’13,” general manager
John Mozeliak said.

The 36-year-old Carpenter said he feels ”great” as he nears
the end of an uneven season for both himself and the team. He
entered Tuesday night’s start against Pittsburgh at 9-9 with a 3.75
ERA as the Cardinals try to stay in the playoff picture.

St. Louis began the day 4 1/2 games behind Atlanta in the
wild-card race and 6 1/2 games in back of Milwaukee in the NL
Central and

”There’s all kinds of things that happened this year that kind
of shuffled things around,” Carpenter said. ”I like the way the
team continued to play and continues to compete (but) we could
never get on that roll.”

Time is running out to make something happen this year, though
Carpenter remains optimistic about the future. Wainwright, who
missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, will
be back next spring and Carpenter is doing his part to make sure
the team has money to retain core players.

The new contract frees up some money next year, giving the team
some wiggle room as it tries to re-sign first baseman Albert
Pujols. Mozeliak said negotiations between the club and its
superstar have not resumed but believes Carpenter’s signing is the
first step in the process of keeping Pujols.

”Clearly getting Chris Carpenter done puts an exclamation point
on our rotation for 2012 and we can start setting our sights on
other objectives,” Mozeliak said.

Carpenter didn’t rule out playing beyond 2013 but stressed it’s
important for him to remain with St. Louis. The three-time All-Star
is 93-42 in his nine seasons with the club and is fourth on the
team’s all-time strikeout list.

It’s heady company for a player who has struggled to stay off
the disabled list since winning the 2005 NL Cy Young Award.

He missed most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons with a series of arm
injuries. He had bone spurs removed from his pitching elbow in May
2007 and had reconstructive elbow surgery that July, sidelining him
until July 2008. A nerve in his right elbow was transposed in
December 2008.

Carpenter rebounded with a sterling 2009 in which he went 17-4
and posted an NL-leading 2.24 ERA. He went 16-9 last season but
hasn’t been quite as sharp this summer, though he’s coming off an
impressive four-hit shutout win over Milwaukee that manager Tony La
Russa called one of the best performances he’s seen all season.

While allowing every season is different, Carpenter is confident
he can be effective well into the future.

”I believe I can be better than I was this year, try and be
more consistent,” he said. ”If I’m healthy, I’m going to be
fine.”

Carpenter is 142-92 with a 3.79 ERA in 14 seasons with the
Toronto Blue Jays and the Cardinals.

Closer to the end of his career than the beginning, Carpenter is
well aware of the company he’s keeping.

”The whole time I’ve been here, there have been a lot of
referrals to ‘the last guy to do this is Bob Gibson,”’ Carpenter
said. ”I’m not Bob Gibson but … (hopefully) when my career is
over, people look back and say even though (I wasn’t) Bob Gibson,
Chris Carpenter was a big part of this tradition.”