How Does an Effective Chris Carpenter Factor into St. Louis Cardinals Rotation?

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIJuly 10, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 21:  Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against 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

The St. Louis Cardinals rotation is about to get even more crowded.

With Carpenter seemingly ready to get back into game action, after throwing a 100-pitch simulated game Wednesday, June 10th, the minors are his next stop.

But what happens if all checks out and he can return to the rotation?

The Cardinals already have Joe Kelly and Jake Westbrook at the back of the rotation. Not to mention guys like Michael Wacha and Tyler Lyons are in Triple-A.

Could Carpenter conceivably come back and be the Carpenter of old? Or could he even just be that No. 5 starter through the second half of the season?

If Carpenter were to come back, what would that mean for the Cardinals and for the rotation?


Which Carpenter Will We See?

Prior to the season, there were questions as to whether Carpenter had pitched his last game in the big leagues. With nerve problems in his back, things didn't look good for the right-hander.

However, rehab has gone well and there was success in his simulated game.

But there's a major difference between a simulated game and live batters. Will Carpenter's injury hold up in a game outside and not in an air-conditioned room?

Will he labor at all and how will he respond the adversity, especially if there's discomfort in his back?

Most St. Louis fans are hoping they get their ace back, while others just want to be able to see him compete.


A Good Problem to Have

Before everyone starts going crazy, this is a good problem for the Cardinals to have. Like the issue the Atlanta Braves are about to face with the return of Brandon Beachy, St. Louis having too many starters is a good thing.

While you never want to hurt any pitcher's feelings, a tough decision is going to have to be made.

That tough decision will likely come down to Kelly being moved back to the bullpen.

He's mainly come out of the bullpen this year, having only started two games. He's been effective as a long reliever, throwing 10.1 innings in his last two relief appearances and giving up only eight hits and one run. His start on July 6 left a lot to be desired after he gave up four runs, but he's shown his value as a long reliever.

Regardless of what kind of success Kelly has, if Carpenter can show he can compete, there's no doubt the spot in the rotation will be his.

Once we get to the playoffs, it's a different story. All bets are off on Carpenter having a starting spot in a seven-game series. With the way Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Westbrook are pitching, he might have a hard time cracking through.