That's what the Cardinals had to hang their hats on Sunday night after ace Chris Carpenter was removed from their game against the Cubs due to a strained right triceps. Carpenter reported no problems in his elbow or shoulder, both joints which have been surgically repaired at various points in the past.
"As of right now they think it's just a slight triceps strain," Carpenter said. "We're going to wait and see what happens the next two days. I was able to do all my exercises afterward, all my rotator cuff exercises. It's not sore. We couldn't reproduce the soreness or the feeling that I felt."
Carpenter accompanied his teammates on their late-night flight to Florida, where the Cardinals have a four-game series scheduled against the Marlins. Manager Tony La Russa said if Carpenter doesn't encounter any complications over the next two days, he will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, in hopes that he might not miss a start. That, however, is clearly a best-case scenario.
"I did my normal routine after a game, all my cuff exercises," Carpenter said. "They checked me out and everything seemed to be OK. We're going to wait and see how the next few days go, and go from there."
Still, any injury to the Cardinals' best pitcher -- the 2005 National League Cy Young winner -- must be considered a major concern. Carpenter has an extensive injury history, though he's never encountered a similar injury to this one.
Making his third start since returning from Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery, Carpenter cruised through the first five innings before running into trouble and then coming down with the injury in the sixth. On his 65th pitch of the game and his first pitch to Jim Edmonds in the sixth, Carpenter felt pain in his elbow. On offering No. 66, he yanked the pitch well inside and immediately summoned catcher Yadier Molina to the mound.
La Russa and head athletic trainer Barry Weinberg soon followed. Carpenter motioned to an area high in the back of his right arm, and he was removed before he threw another pitch.
"It definitely made me cut the next ball off," Carpenter said. "It didn't allow me to throw the ball the way I wanted to throw it. I knew it wasn't right, so I didn't want to push it. The thing that made me feel a little better was that I was able to do all my cuff exercises. My strength was fine. I had no other soreness. We couldn't reproduce the soreness that I had on those two balls."
The loss of Carpenter is clearly a blow on the field to the Cardinals, but it's painful on a personal level as well. The right-hander is a popular and respected member of the clubhouse, and his return to active duty was greeted with great enthusiasm.
"It's important to us, but he deserves to have his career, so I'm more concerned about him," La Russa said.
The Cardinals have staked a great deal on a healthy return by Carpenter. After the non-waiver Trade Deadline passed without St. Louis making a move, general manager John Mozeliak equated the returns of Carpenter and Adam Wainwright to a pair of major acquisitions.
And thus far, Carpenter has pitched the part. In his first 14 innings, he allowed one earned run, and he seemed to be getting better from game to game.
"You saw what we could have if he is healthy," said outfielder Skip Schumaker. "That was vintage Carp. That's the Carp I remember from two years ago. We'll wait to see what the injury is. But that's kind of what Carp does right there. Hopefully we can have that and it's not that major an injury."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less