Inbox: When will Carpenter return to rotation?

Inbox: When will Carpenter return to rotation?

Inbox: When will Carpenter return to rotation?
Sifting through your Inbox submissions has provided a welcome respite from unpacking and organizing my new home -- I certainly thank you for that. Remember that in order to have your questions considered for future Inbox editions, you must include your hometown in your email. That information was left out of a number of the emails I received over the past week.

Keep in mind, too, that, due to the volume of emails I receive, I can't answer them all in this forum. But if your question didn't make it into this Inbox, it will be saved for future consideration. Most of the questions I received were in some way related to injuries and impending returns. Thus, you'll see that as a focus below. So without further delay, I offer you another round of Inbox questions.

What is the status of Chris Carpenter, and what happens with Lance Lynn when Carpenter comes back?
-- Steve P., Bushnell, Ill.

Based on the number of Carpenter questions I received this week, I sense that there is some restlessness regarding the lack of information about the right-hander's status. It may not be a satisfactory answer, but all I can tell you is that there is no clear timetable for Carpenter. He continues to work through a shoulder-strengthening regimen, a program designed to get his arm ready to pitch again.

There was initially some optimism that Carpenter would be able to resume his throwing program after about three weeks of exercise-intensive work. That three-week mark obviously passed weeks ago, though, and even Carpenter remains unsure as to when he'll pick up a baseball next. Also, since so much time has elapsed since Carpenter last threw, he'll have to basically start over with his throwing program when he gets to that next step. Best-case scenario for Carpenter right now would be a June return.

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Lynn, who became the Majors' first four-game winner on Wednesday, has thrived in the rotation. The thought had been that Lynn would be a placeholder for Carpenter, and he could then slide back into the 'pen when Carpenter returned. If Lynn continues to pitch as he has this month, he won't be leaving the rotation.

Because Carpenter's return is at least a month away, it is too early to speculate how the club will make room for him on the roster. Perhaps the Cardinals will ease Carpenter in with work in relief. Or depending on how Adam Wainwright's inning load looks, maybe Wainwright could slide into the 'pen. These dilemmas usually have a way of working themselves out, so it's wise not to get too far ahead with speculation. First, let's find out if and when Carpenter will rejoin the club.

If Carpenter isn't able to return from the disabled list as soon as expected, what are the chances that the Cardinals come to an agreement with Roy Oswalt?
-- Zach M., Rolla, Mo.

Cardinals management didn't show any initial panic when Carpenter went down last month, and there is little reason to be concerned now, given how the rotation has flourished these first three weeks of the season. Through Wednesday's slate of games, the Cards were tied with the Rangers for most wins from their starters (11). The club's rotation ERA of 2.48 ranked second in the Majors. Such a start does not necessitate looking for external answers.

If circumstances change, the Cardinals know that Oswalt is available and highly interested in pitching for St. Louis. But if the rotation continues to be a strength, the Redbirds would be wise using their additional resources to upgrade in other areas.

Why is there not a bigger push to bring Allen Craig back?
-- Bill A., Houston, Mo.

A little more than a month ago, the Cardinals made a push that they hoped would have Craig ready for Opening Day. A setback resulted, which is why Craig just resumed playing in games last week. The way that decision backfired prompted the Cards to return to the more conservative approach they had anticipated keeping all along. It hasn't hurt, either, that the club has gotten ample production from the bench without Craig. That has helped assure the timetable was not sped up again.

That said, Craig is finally getting close. He played in a handful of extended spring games before joining Class A Palm Beach to begin his rehab assignment last weekend. Craig served as a designated hitter in three games with Palm Beach and is now set to play the field for Triple-A Memphis. Assuming there are no setbacks, Craig could come off the disabled list before the end of the next week.

What scenario do you see unfolding when Craig and Lance Berkman return from the disabled list?
-- Palmer, White Plains, N.Y.

If the rest of the roster remains healthy, two of the following three -- Erik Komatsu, Shane Robinson and Matt Carpenter -- are expected to be pushed off the roster.

Komatsu has fared the poorest of the three so far, but with him comes the Rule 5 Draft caveat. If the Cardinals want to take him off the roster, they will likely lose him to the Nationals. St. Louis has ample outfield depth to be fine without Komatsu this year, but also to be weighed in the decision will be his long-term potential.

Since Matt Carpenter's terrific start, his production has tailed. And though he offers tremendous versatility, the Cards will get much of the same from Craig, who can play first and the corner-outfield spots. That certainly makes Matt Carpenter a candidate to get squeezed from the roster.

Robinson has had the best results of the three, which would warrant strong consideration to stay. If he doesn't, it will likely be because the Cardinals weren't ready to lose Komatsu. Robinson does have a Minor League option left, so there is no risk in losing him if he is sent out.

I know that manager Mike Matheny has stated that he put Marc Rzepczynski in the closer's spot on Tuesday because of Jason Motte's high pitch count from the prior night. But do you think he might be starting to audition Rzepczynski (and others) for a return to Tony La Russa's closer by committee?
-- Whit R., Madison, Miss.

No. Motte is the Cardinals' closer, and there is nothing to read more into Matheny's decision on Tuesday than the answer he provided. Motte was coming off an outing in which he threw an unusually high 31 pitches in a high-leverage spot. Had that not been the case, Motte would have started the ninth, even against the left-handed-hitting Bryan LaHair.

Is Mitchell Boggs functioning as a de facto setup man? Is there much of a hierarchy between the starters and Motte?
-- Paul Z., Belleville, Ill.

Boggs isn't the de facto setup man. He is the preferred setup man. Though that job was assigned loosely to Fernando Salas out of Spring Training, it's evident that Boggs has become Matheny's go-to guy in the eighth. Rzepczynski will get eighth-inning work, too, but that will be largely matchup based. Boggs has always had tremendous potential, and Matheny believes the righty has turned a corner with his confidence and pitch conviction this season. To this point, the results have supported the first-year manager. Boggs has allowed one earned run in 9 1/3 innings.

As for a hierarchy, yes, patterns have emerged. Motte entered the year solidified as the team's closer. Boggs, Rzepczynski and Salas have earned much of the late-inning setup work. J.C. Romero has been used primarily in left-on-left matchup spots earlier in the game. And Kyle McClellan and Victor Marte have fit in more as middle-inning relievers, and have been called upon late in games that are not close.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.