Let’s add another stumbling block along the road to the St. Louis Cardinals drive toward “12 in 2012”. With the departures of Tony LaRussa, Dave Duncan, and our former first baseman the Cardinals looked to be headed for a standing eight count. If not for some creative moves by GM John Mozeliak the Cardinals might have been in a world of hurt. The return of a bulk of last years team, the addition of Carlos Beltran, and Adam Wainwright returning to form buoyed the organization and had Redbird Nation fired up for another title run if for nothing but to prove to that guy who left for the west coast that we could do it without him. Some of those hopes and dreams came crashing down this past week with news that Chris Carpenter is on the shelf indefinitely.
Indefinitely is not a word that any team or fan likes to hear about anyone (well most of the time anyway), let alone their staff Ace. Statistically the Cardinals play better when Carpenter toes the rubber. Since 2004 the Cards are .639 when Carp is working and .540 when any other pitcher is on the hill. I won’t ever pretend to be a math genius, but that is a substantial difference. This little nugget alone has me freaking out a little as a fan. Carp is extremely valuable to the club. His absence is going to have a huge impact. Best-case scenario the Redbirds are without Carp for a month or two. If he has to have surgery the 37 year olds career may be over. This is not good news for Cardinal Nation at all.
I am done with the gloom and doom for now. As bad as this looks I still think that the Cards are still in good shape. Barring a misstep the other day Lance Lynn has looked decent this spring. He is not going to take Carp’s place but he may hold it sufficiently until he returns. Notice I said when. I am going to remain positive that a couple of months of rest will be what it requires and Carp will be back. The fact that the Cardinals appear to be in much better shape than any other time Carp has been injured is key to my optimism. There are two other options that are around to solidify that optimism quite a bit. If the current staff struggles the Cards have the option of exploring a trade for another starter or Roy Oswalt is currently still available. Notice I didn’t mention Shelby Miller as an option for this. At this point I hope that is off the table. He needs to stay where he is and continue to develop.
The current starting staff is serviceable. Especially in a weak NL Central. One of the other things I have noticed that bolsters my confidence is the fact that Yadier Molina has seen some significant playing time for the spring. I hope it’s not too much and he is fresh for the long season ahead. However, I appreciate the work he is putting in to work with a starting staff that is currently in flux. He is the anchor and must hold this thing together. When the Birds recently re-signed Molina I was a little vocal about my concern for the amount of money spent to secure him. He may prove to be worth every penny if he can guide this patchwork staff to several wins and they can keep the club afloat until Carp returns. By my count Molina has started in 9 of the last 13 games. Usually I would chalk this up to the fact that he was angling for more at bats. Apparently he has talked the coaching staff into letting him start even when he was slated to have a day off to work with the starting pitching staff. The more work he gets in with the starters the more comfortable they will become. Molina is a gifted catcher and I am not sure that he gets all of the credit he deserves for the manner in which he calls a game. He is possibly the best in the league at doing that. I am also glad to see that he is putting in the extra work to become better at the plate. The Cards are going to need that production from him too.
The Cardinals are looking forward to a rough few weeks while everything with Carp plays out. The team will be just fine. This stumbling block will hopefully be a small footnote of a successful season. The road ahead is long and filled with potential problems. The proactive steps taken with Lance Lynn by the coaching staff could turn out to be the saving grace. The club has to keep pugging and moving forward. Once they receive some solid info about Carp (when or if he is able to return) other moves may have to be made. I am willing to trust Mo at this point. He has proven himself so far. If the Birds can avoid a start of the regular season stumble all will be right in Cardinal Nation.