Carpenter said on Friday afternoon that although he feels fine physically, he's spent much of the young season searching for consistently dependable mechanics. He's also found his cut fastball unusually unreliable. However, overall, Carpenter said he's pleased with the way his performances have turned out.
"There's no question," Carpenter said when asked if things have been more difficult than usual. "But it's getting better. The first month has been a battle mechanically. I've battled arm slot. I've battled stuff-wise. But I continue to find ways to go and get outs and do the things I need to do."
Carpenter and manager Tony La Russa see it as a credit that Carpenter has managed the year he has despite feeling somewhat off. There's also the fact that for a former Cy Young winner and last year's National League ERA champ, a 3.06 ERA is judged a little differently.
"When there's expectation, you deal with it, which I'm fine with," Carpenter said. "Sometimes there's over-expectation, which I accept. I've risen to a spot where the expectation level is that I'm going to go and shut everybody out every single game. That's OK with me. But I do know deep down inside that's really difficult. So I go out and do the best I can, and when it's all said and done, see what happens."
The results have been a bit different for Carpenter this year, though. Carpenter was reached for four or more runs three times all last season. This year, it's already happened twice. He's had four starts this year in which he has issued three walks after having three such starts all last year.
"It shows, which he has said, I don't think his delivery is exactly where it wants to be on every pitch," La Russa said. "Not quite as sharp. But he's definitely good enough, and he's doing good enough. He competes. He's able to make a pitch when he has to. But his timing isn't perfect. Just like Albert [Pujols] hitting .320 right now and he isn't as sharp as he can be. The really good ones find a way to survive."
When a 3.06 ERA counts as "surviving," you know you're pretty good.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.