Both Cardinals, Chris Carpenter driving decision on his role with team
JUPITER, Fla. — John Mozeliak stands outside an oversized SUV in the Cardinals’ parking lot at Roger Dean Stadium on Wednesday morning, waiting on a driver to zip him and his assistants up I-95 for the club’s spring training game at Port St. Lucie.
Suddenly, to-go cup of coffee in hand, Chris Carpenter strides out of the clubhouse and slips into the driver’s seat.
Ah, a chauffeur. Now we know what Carpenter’s new job with his old team will be. After all those years of carrying the Cardinals on the mound, he’ll be carrying the brain trust on the highway.
Just kidding, of course.
Carpenter handled driving duties on this day, but the real responsibilities for his new gig have yet to be defined and a job title still is to be determined. Carpenter, in fact, said he hasn’t really been employed by the team since his retirement became final Nov. 20.
"Nothing has been signed or anything like that," he said a few minutes before he pulled out of the parking lot. "They want me to be part of the organization and I said, yes. So it’s, like, sweet."
His official hiring is all but a done deal. Exactly what he will do in his new job is not. Not even close. Carpenter could assume a coach/instructor’s role and remain on the field, or he could gravitate toward the front office. Or, perhaps ideally, he could do some of both. One reason making a decision is such a challenge is because the club believes he could be comfortable doing either.
"I enjoy both," he said, before slightly tipping his hand. "Teaching is what I enjoy doing. Being able to bring experience and knowledge to people that they might not have excites me."
And there is this from Adam Wainwright, his close friend and longtime rotation mate: "He told me for years that he wouldn’t want to be in the front office."
Wainwright added, "He’d be great at both."
Then he paused. "Seeing him organize deals (on the side), I’d lean toward the front office."
Like a scouting position? "No," Wainwright said. "GM. I could see Chris Carpenter doing that."
On the flip side, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Carpenter has a gift for teaching. Lance Lynn is one who says Carpenter helped him out considerably last year. Carpenter, remember, started the practice of having Cardinals starters watch each other’s between-start bullpen sessions with the goal that they might spot any weakness that could be fixed. In that way, Carpenter already has years of scouting and coaching experience.
As he pointed out, he is scouting every time he watches a game. Whichever role he moves into, it will be more than glorified figurehead.
"Whenever we bring people around here, we’re always very careful to make sure that they’re being maximized," Matheny said.
That should not be a problem with Carpenter, no matter what he ends up doing.
"I told him the other day, every day he can be around our clubhouse, we have a chance to get better," said Matheny, who has known Carpenter since their days in Toronto. "Mainly because he can’t control himself. If somebody is doing something in a way (he shouldn’t be), whether he’s watching it on TV, sees it in person or hears it from the guys, he’s going to say something. I know what his drive is. It’s not to be this imposing force; it’s to do what’s right. He’s passionate about doing what’s right for the game, and that’s something we all respect about him."
Figuring out Carpenter’s next step is likely to take some time. He arrived in Jupiter on Monday and said he will be around until March 22. But when his children arrive for spring break later this week, his time around the team will be reduced so he can spend time with them.
There’s another hitch in this job search of sorts. Nobody is quite sure who should make the call. Mozeliak and Matheny say they want to do whatever’s right by Carpenter. The tall right-hander, however, sees the situation differently.
"I want them to tell me what they feel they need, what they think I can bring to the organization to help," Carpenter said. "I’m not that person who’s going to come in and dictate anything. I have too much respect for (Mozeliak) to dictate what I’m going to do. He’s the boss. Tell me what you want me to do.
"I’m looking forward to whatever happens. I’m just happy I can be a part of it some way or another."
It’s safe to say that he will be doing more than driving around the boss.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.