Carpenter's test results offer optimism

Carpenter's results offer optimism

ST. LOUIS -- Using a similar situation from four years ago as a guide, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak expressed significant confidence on Friday regarding the health of ace Chris Carpenter.

The right-hander underwent a nerve conduction test on Thursday in St. Louis, and the club went over the results on Friday. Mozeliak liked what he saw, and he expects Carpenter to begin a throwing program that would put him on track for a regular Spring Training. Carpenter is dealing with a nerve condition in his right shoulder.

"It was a very positive report," Mozeliak said. "Clearly, the nerve is healing. It's healing at the normal rate. ... It's doing exactly what they expected it to do. Most importantly, he's regained his shoulder strength to almost the level he had prior to this even happening. So that's positive news as well.

"Right now, he's scheduled to start his throwing program in middle to late January, and as of today he's expecting a normal spring."

The injury is similar to one that kept Carpenter out of the 2004 postseason, and that experience has served as a valuable road map. Carpenter not only went into 2005 strong, he posted the best season of his career and won the National League Cy Young Award.

Even with the good news on Carpenter, though, the Cardinals expect to turn their attention to pitching as the Hot Stove season continues. The addition of shortstop Khalil Greene lessens the urgency to add a second baseman, Mozeliak said. With Adam Kennedy still on the roster, despite a trade request, the GM indicated that one possibility is to go to Spring Training with Kennedy as the main man at the keystone.

For now, St. Louis will seek depth in the starting rotation and/or a closer.

"I still think that we have to be open-minded and see what's out there both in the rotation and the back of the bullpen," Mozeliak said. "I'm not saying we can't be able to pull off both. I really don't know that today. But I still think there's some value or a benefit to trying still to do both."

Hot Stove
Mozeliak did not rule out the possibility of a single big-ticket acquisition, though neither did he play it up. The Cardinals have an estimated $12-15 million available to spend on their 2009 payroll, depending on the salaries for several arbitration-eligible players.

"I'm going to be patient," Mozeliak said. "I want to be opportunistic. And if there's something that makes sense, we're going to be prepared to do it. The way our payroll is structured, and the current economic status of what we're all dealing with, I think some of that is going to be very difficult to do. But we don't know how some of these top players are going to look in the free-agent market yet. To date, not a lot of big signs have happened. So I think you just have to look and choose when you're prepared to do so."

He said that St. Louis has not yet revised its 2009 target payroll in the wake of the economic downturn, but acknowledged that the economy adds some risk to any major financial outlay.

"We haven't had any significant changes by any means, but I do think there's some real logic that we have to be flexible," Mozeliak said. "There are some reasons to make sure that until we have a real good feel on exactly what our sales are going to be, we don't want to end up maxing out our payroll and then finding out we're going to have a real shortfall."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.