St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter to return to the lineup this week

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18: Matt Carpenter
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 18: Matt Carpenter /

The St. Louis Cardinals’ starting first baseman has nursed a sore back through the start of Spring Training.

According to the St. Louis Cardinals president of baseball operations, John Mozeliak, Matt Carpenter will make his Spring Training debut later this week. In an interview with KMOX’s Mike Claiborne, Mozeliak expressed little to no concern over Carpenter’s ailing back and expects to see him in the lineup later this week.

Carpenter came into Spring Training with a tight back, making the St. Louis Cardinals play cautious with their starting first baseman. Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Carpenter doing light baseball activity, but should be ramping up real activity soon. If everything goes well over the next couple of days, I think we should expect to see him over the weekend beginning on Friday.

Here is what I am looking forward to upon Carpenter’s return:

The first being where Matheny places Carpenter in the lineup. Will he bat leadoff? Will he bat second or third? It’s a question many are debating on social media and throughout Cardinal Nation. I’d caution everyone to automatically assume if Carpenter appears in the three-hole that is where he will hit in the regular season. The same should go for seeing him in the leadoff spot.

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I won’t deny that seeing him in either spot to start Spring training is a pretty good indication of Matheny’s plans, even though he’s mentioned Carpenter out of three spot previously. However, remember that Spring Training is also about getting at bats. He will see significantly more at bats in any of the top three spots in the order.

The second thing I am looking forward to is his defense at first base. We all know the struggles at third and second, but can Carpenter overcome any shortcomings at first base this season? With Jose Oquendo back with the infield players, I think it’s safe to assume there will be some improvement. Carpenter doesn’t have to be a gold glove first baseman, but he does need to be able to make the tough plays from time to time, especially scooping and preventing doubles down the line.

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Lastly, I would really like to see Carpenter stay healthy.

Truthfully, the only expectation that SHOULD matter is to stay healthy. At this point, the Cardinals cannot afford a serious injury to one of their most productive players to begin the season.

While we need Carpenter to get plenty of work starting now, it is way more important his back is not the source of an injury-plagued season. Also, don’t forget about his shoulder injury from last season.

If Carpenter’s back doesn’t hold up, the bulk of the first base work will fall to Jose Martinez and Luke Voit most likely.

While I am more impressed with Martinez than Voit, I think they both would fill in admirably for Carpenter. But the issues don’t stop right there with who the back ups are.

Also consider what this does to the overall lineup. You lose a left-handed contact/power bat from a lineup with all right-handed power. The lineup will have to change to compensate for the loss of Carpenter, potentially putting players in positions in the order they are not able to succeed in.

The importance on Carpenter’s health cannot be overstated by any means. He means too much to the St. Louis Cardinals offense for him to be pushed to the point his back hurts him in the regular season. I assume the Cardinals training staff will be pretty much attached to his hip the rest of Spring Training.

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I’m excited for Carpenter to return to the lineup and very interested to see where he hits in the lineup. Are you excited for his return?