A Real Pain in the Neck


I have stated before that I love Spring Training. The one thing that alters that a little are reports of injuries that could have a lasting impact upon the season. I completely understand the role of Spring Training and appreciate the level of effort that the St. Louis Cardinal Coaching staff and others put into preparation and safety of all involved. Reports out of camp this week about staff ace Chris Carpenter and a potentially serious neck injury put all of Cardinal Nation on red alert.

Carpenter’s history of neck, shoulder, and elbow injuries had everyone nervous when reports circulated that he was dealing with undiagnosed issues that were affecting his neck, but had radiated to his shoulder and arm. The only solace that I took was the fact that he wasn’t sent to St. Louis to have it examined by team specialists here. That action usually signals a significant absence or a season ending injury. Carpenter experienced residual pain in his neck that radiated to his left side and then his right side. Once treatment was administered that failed to alleviate the pain the team opted to get an MRI to pinpoint the issue. I don’t know about everyone else, but started to flashback to 2004 when a nerve issue sidelined Carpenter right before a playoff run that culminated with being swept by those pesky Boston Red Sox. Then another issue that surface in 2008 came to mind as well. I was looking for Roy Oswalt’s number to send to John Mozeliak in case they had lost it after talks broke down several weeks ago.

There is no doubt that Carpenter is a warrior. He was also a workhorse last year pitching 273.1 innings (including playoff games). This included throwing 4,155 pitches. This is not too shabby for a soon to be 37 year old pitcher with the major league tenure and resume he possesses. His age, medical history, experience, and warrior spirit all contribute to not only his greatness but also his propensity to injury. The Cardinals need Carpenter to be healthy. Pitching is going to be even more vital this year as the club finds it’s way offensively. Every run on each side is going to count.

With Adam Wainwright coming back off of injury and solid offseason moves Cardinal Nation is excited to see what this season holds. For a time this week I was wondering if we were actually going to have Waino and Carp active at the same time this year. Mike Matheny and his staff came into camp with a solid plan to evaluate Wainwright’s progress and to limit Carpenter’s throwing. Their goal was to get them prepared for the season without injuring them in camp. There was a specific plan to limit Carpenter’s action due to the amount of pitching he did last year. I love this. I would much rather him be prepared and fresh in September and October than destroying teams in Spring Training and not be available for a postseason run.

There appears to be great news out of Jupiter today. The injury has been diagnosed as disc related and not a nerve issue. The best part of that news is that his injury can be treated with medication and exercise. If it had been a nerve issue, the only prescription would have been an extended period of rest. The Redbird staff is now preparing a plan of attack to rehab and ease Carp back into action when it is best to do so. The only better news would have been a miraculous healing. I will take this for now.

Carpenter is the projected starter for opening day. When asked about his status for that start he stated that he isn’t concerned. I am not sure he should be with the amount of time the medical and coaching staff has to treat and rehab this minor setback. The club will hope to project his throwing program for the rest of the spring this week. The silver lining to this may be twofold. The Cardinals are going to get an even better look at phenom Shelby Miller and we can see just where the staff stands should an injury sideline one of the starting rotation once the season starts. As long as Carp can get enough work in to be prepared I know I will be satisfied. I just want to see the starting rotation make it through healthy and see what the start of the regular season holds.

I am much more excited today about what prospects the season holds than I was three days ago. I am sure John Mozeliak and his counterparts across the league have Roy Oswalt’s agent on speed dial in the off chance that there is a need for his services. While I would love to see Oswalt in a Cardinal uniform, I don’t necessarily want it to happen due to injury, especially one to Carp or Waino.

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