St. Louis Cardinals: Matheny Changes Course and Carpenter Returns

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Aug 31, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter breaks hit bat while grounding out in the fifth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 31, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Carpenter breaks hit bat while grounding out in the fifth inning during the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports /
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On Tuesday, the St. Louis Cardinals told beat reporters that Matt Carpenter would rest for at least another week. On Thursday, he started against the Houston Astros.

Last week, the St. Louis Cardinals announced that Matt Carpenter was experiencing some lower back stiffness. Cards Nation expected an extended period of absence, and that expectation was heightened on Tuesday when Rick Hummel reported that Carp would sit for at least another week.

I covered the topic myself, so you can imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I saw Matt Carpenter in the starting lineup.

The theme of my earlier piece was a praise of wisdom, as the risk of further aggravating Matt’s back far outweighed the reward of getting him some reps at his new position. The St. Louis Cardinals appeared in no rush to bring him back, but it appears I sang my song of praise a bit too soon.

In the third inning, and the ninth spot of the lineup, Matt Carpenter stepped into the batters box. Surely, there must have been some misunderstanding or misdirection when it came to the extent of his injury. If Carp was really laboring, there would be zero chance of him getting any at-bats…right?

Wrong. It  immediately became apparent that Matt was not at all comfortable in the box. He showed little interest in nor ability to swing the bat. Carp dropped a bunt between third base and short, and reached first easily. The bunt was well executed, but that execution was last on my list of takeaways.

St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis Cardinals /

The at-bat was Matt’s only one of the day. Not only was his back so stiff that he could only muster one plate appearance, he could barely lift the bat off of his shoulder. If the plan was to move him all the way down to ninth in the lineup, and pull him after the AB, then why the

hell

was Carpenter in the game?

When it comes to day-to-day issues like Matt’s back stiffness, the prognosis can change in a heart beat. Plans to rest players have been altered before, but it’s usually because the game at hand is of moderate to dire consequence. Surely, I don’t need to explain to you how inconsequential this game was.

More from St Louis Cardinals News

The St. Louis Cardinals are going to need a lot of things to go right if they are to improve on last year’s finish. Perhaps most important on that list is the impact of Fowler leading off games with Carpenter in the three-hole. When Matt produces at his peak level, he’s an All-Star-caliber player, and has even entered the MVP discussion in the past.

A full season of a true leadoff hitter with speed, followed by Carp’s ability to slug the ball is a tasty proposition. One that Matheny put at risk when he started Carpenter. Back stiffness doesn’t usually ruin a season, but oblique strains can lead to extended absences. After Matt’s oblique issues last year, I’m truly at a loss for words as to how irrational this decision was.

Next: Seven 2017 Predictions

Perhaps my fellow Redbird Rants contributor Zach Gifford put it best in his tweet to me this morning. This decision can only be described with one word, or more accurately, one hashtag:

#Mathenaging

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