The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping for a bounce-back season from Matt Carpenter but early signs might point to an old issue popping up. Don’t worry…yet.
Spring training games haven’t even been going on for a week for the St. Louis Cardinals and already, the team has lost Miles Mikolas to injury. There has also been a small scare with Paul Goldschmidt and his elbow. Goldschmidt is back fine and playing first base in games, but now there comes another worry: Matt Carpenter’s back.
Last season, the Cardinals’ third baseman had the worst season of his career at the age of 33, after getting his two-year, $39M last spring. While he turned it around in the final month of the season, Carpenter’s season slash line of .226/.334/.392 put him at 9% below average offensively.
His third base defense was just fine, but Carpenter changed his workouts last season which left him without his usual strength. At multiple times in his career, Carpenter’s back has been a source of distress for him. Earlier this week, fears were reignited when Carpenter was scratched from a game for back tightness.
Carpenter quickly dispelled that there was any issue with his back and honestly, his reasoning fits. This early in spring, rust is still getting knocked off and there’s no reason to push it. But it still isn’t a good sign.
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Matt Carpenter may be one of the hardest working Cardinals the team has had in a while, but he’s no superhero. Over the course of the season, every player’s body deteriorates and just was said with Paul Goldschmidt’s elbow and Miles Mikolas, these things should not be happening this early.
There is not one player on the Cardinals who has more pressure on them in 2020 than Matt Carpenter. He is in his age 34 season now and the one thing he is feeling is confident. In this USA Today article, Carpenter said, “I’m coming out to prove that last year isn’t who I am.” He also said he wants to “prove to myself that I still have a lot left.’’
At 34, he could be on a steep decline that most players don’t follow, or he just had a bad year. Regardless of the reasoning for Carpenter’s performance last year, no level of confidence in himself will help if he is not healthy. If Carpenter’s back is already bothering him, that could be a bad sign for the coming season.
Keeping Carp out of the lineup makes sense at this point but he definitely isn’t out of the woods.
If Carpenter has to miss time, Tommy Edman or the newest Cardinal, Brad Miller would fill the time at third base. At the very least, those two would be able to emulate Carpenter’s numbers from last season.