Chris Carpenter: Cardinals Won't Suffer Without Former Cy Young Winner in 2013

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 21:  Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals reacts in the second inning while taking on the San Francisco Giants in Game Six of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 21, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

When the St. Louis Cardinals announced that Chris Carpenter was likely to miss the 2013 season due to shoulder problems, the first thought that likely went through the minds of some people was they could be in trouble. 

If that is what you thought, you clearly have no idea what the Cardinals are doing down on the farm right now. 

There was some talk that Carpenter's absence could force the Cardinals to discuss bringing free agent Kyle Lohse, who spent the last five seasons in St. Louis, back since he wasn't drawing up the kind of interest that he or agent Scott Boras were hoping for. 

However, Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted general manager John Mozeliak as saying that the Cardinals like what they have already. 

As for Lohse returning to Cards, Mozeliak: "We're comfortable with what we have." But didn't rule out discussing Lohse as possibility

— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) February 5, 2013

It is hard to argue with Mozeliak's thinking right there. Even without Carpenter, the Cardinals are in terrific shape to be one of the best teams in the National League and compete for a division title because of the pitching depth they have built in the big leagues and in the minors. 

Plus, we should all remember that two years ago Adam Wainwright missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery during spring training. The Cardinals went on to win the World Series. 

But looking at this year's team, it is hard to envision the Cardinals taking a huge hit without Carpenter this season. For starters, the team won 88 games last year with Carpenter throwing just 17 innings.

Going over the rotation for 2013, the Cardinals have a very good reason to believe that they will improve upon the 3.71 ERA they posted as a unit last season. 

Wainwright will be two full years removed from Tommy John surgery. He was terrific in the second half of the season, posting a 3.28 ERA with 86 hits allowed, 86 strikeouts, 23 walks, five home runs allowed and a .236 average against in 96 innings. 

Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn and Jake Westbrook are very effective in the middle and back of a rotation, though one of them can move to the bullpen if needed. 

If Jaime Garcia can make it through the season without shoulder problems, which seems like a long shot just because we have seen pitchers try to pitch through issues only to breakdown and go under the knife more often than not, he can be a good mid-rotation starter. 

The biggest reasons to be optimistic are Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller. 

Rosenthal was one of the breakout stars in last year's postseason as a reliever. He posted 15 strikeouts with just two walks and two hits allowed in 8.2 innings pitched in October after a dominant 22.2-inning debut in the regular season. 

Everyone seems to agree that, with his easy delivery and electric fastball-curveball combination, Rosenthal should be given a chance to start. He obviously will have to tone down the velocity in the rotation, but he can work 92-95 and get hitters to miss. 

The biggest adjustment Rosenthal has to make is finding consistency with his off-speed stuff. His curveball is great in relief but could be easier to hit when opponents get a better look at it. His slider and changeup can be too hard out of his hand at times. 

Miller has been the Cardinals' best prospect for the last three years. He did struggle in the first half of the 2012 season at Triple-A, not showing nearly the same velocity or command he did the previous year. 

However, things really turned around in the second half, as Miller ironed out his mechanics and posted a 2.88 ERA with 70 strikeouts and just seven walks in 59.1 innings pitched. 

The Cardinals were so impressed they gave Miller a brief September look, mostly out of the bullpen. He struck out 16 in 13.2 innings and made just one start. 

At just 22 years old, the Cardinals could give Miller a little more time in the minors to ensure that he is 100 percent ready to go when they put him on the big-league roster. But it won't take long before he is pitching in St. Louis every fifth day. 

All of that is enough to make the Cardinals not worry one bit about the possibility that Carpenter won't be pitching in 2013. This team is stacked on the mound and in the lineup, which is a testament to the job the entire organization does to keep the pipeline flowing.