Carpenter, Cardinals say lingering back tightness is no great concern
JUPITER, Fla. — Even as Matt Carpenter‘s return to Grapefruit League play is delayed, both the team and the third baseman insist the lingering back tightness is no big deal.
“If this was the middle of the season and these games counted, I would be just working through some of the soreness and tightness that I’m going through, but I don’t feel the need to do that and go back to 70 percent because I’m pushing through a spring training game,” Carpenter said.
Originally expected to return Wednesday, Carpenter now may not return until Sunday.
Manager Mike Shildt doesn’t believe the tightness will lead to Carpenter missing Opening Day next Thursday at Milwaukee.
“It’s felt good the last three days,” Shildt said. “Really positive. We just want to make sure we’re progressing, nip it in the bud, being smart. We don’t want it to flare up and miss any time in Milwaukee.”
Carpenter hasn’t appeared in a game since Friday. He originally experienced the back tightness Saturday during fielding drills.
In recent days he underwent an MRI that Carpenter said showed his back is in better shape than last year, when it bothered him throughout spring leading to a slow start to the season.
“Because of it being early in the year and we’re about to break, I’m not pushing through a little tight back,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter expects to remain in Jupiter when the Cardinals break camp Sunday, skipping the team’s Monday exhibition game at Triple-A Memphis. He’ll rejoin St. Louis in Milwaukee the day prior to the March 28 season opener.
A three-time All-Star, Carpenter is hitting .179 with three homers in 33 plate appearances this spring.
“I feel like my swing and my at-bats are where they need to be,” Carpenter said. “I had enough work before that as far as playing and defense to where a day or two would be good.”
Carpenter’s absence over the past week prevented Shildt from fielding his expected Opening Day lineup at any point this spring. For Shildt, only two batting order spots are set: Carpenter at leadoff and Marcell Ozuna at cleanup.
Fowler smashed New York starter Domingo German’s first pitch over the right-field wall for his first spring homer. Fowler hit a two-run homer in the second inning.
Ozuna also hit his first homer of the spring, a solo shot to left in the third.