You can’t blame the St. Louis Cardinals for trying right? If you had a former Cy Young Award winner on your roster, you’d pitch him in the playoffs too.
Or would you?
Would you start a 37-year-old who made only three starts this season after rehabbing from injury? And how much stock can you realistically put in a Cy Young Award won seven years ago?
These are the questions the Cardinals have to have asked themselves before handing the ball to Chris Carpenter in the NLDS, but after 5 2/3 scoreless innings, there’s no way he wasn’t getting another start.
It’s not like Carpenter is coming back from an injury like Tommy John Surgery, for which there has become a definitive time table and rehab process. The thoracic outlet syndrome that cost Carpenter the majority of his 2012 season is a shoulder issue, which are historically harder to return from.
The Cardinals didn’t expect to have Carpenter at all this season, but with the luxury of being able to give him three starts down the stretch, coupled with question marks surrounding starter Jaime Garcia and a desire to keep Lance Lynn in the bullpen where he thrived last October, the team made the decision to see what they had in their former ace.
And there’s nothing saying that he won’t get another start after Monday night.
Carpenter didn’t pitch terribly, with three of the five runs the San Francisco Giants scored off of him being unearned, but he was far from sharp. Having made no official rehab starts and logging just 17 innings in the regular season, it’s not unexpected for him to not have his best stuff, but giving him another start may not be something the Cardinals have the luxury of doing.
That decision will likely be made as the next few games play out. If they have a series lead, the Cardinals could easily value Carpenter’s big game experience over any of their other options. If they need to use their other options, Lynn and Joe Kelly, in extended stretches out of the bullpen in games three-through-five, then Carpenter may be the only option they have.
Regardless, they are asking a lot out of Carpenter. While he may be the freshest pitcher this October, asking a 37-year-old with an extensive injury history to help win a series after a major shoulder injury isn’t the best plan.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, it may be the only one they have.
You can follow Jeff Moore on Twitter at @MLBPW.