Central foes not celebrating Carpenter's setback

Central foes not celebrating Carpenter's setback

ST. LOUIS -- At 1:30 p.m. CT, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny walked into the Busch Stadium press conference room to deliver the news that Chris Carpenter, bothered again by numbness and discomfort in his right shoulder and neck, likely won't be pitching for the Cardinals in 2013.

It was sobering news for a fan base that has high hopes for the Cardinals' upcoming season. But they weren't the only ones listening. It took little time, too, for the news to reach the Cardinals' National League Central counterparts.

Carpenter, who spent the last nine seasons pitching in St. Louis, was mostly dominant in division matchups. Against the Reds, Cubs, Brewers and Pirates, Carpenter amassed a record of 43-20 and a 3.09 ERA in 85 career starts.

But while some within the division are surely feeling some relief in the prospect of not having to face Carpenter this year, the immediate reaction to the right-hander's latest setback was much more reserved. In general, Carpenter's competitors commended his 15-year career and characterized the Cardinals as a team still in position to seriously contend for a division title.

"It's hard to tell how it will affect them," said Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, who brought Carpenter to the Cardinals when he was serving as the GM in St. Louis. "[Adam] Wainwright will be better, another year away from [Tommy John] surgery. It's a good rotation as is. They have some younger guys that could be able to step up.

"It's tough for the Cardinals, but I'm sure they will bounce back. You hate to see this end Chris' career, if that is what has happened. He was one of my favorite players."

Carpenter, who posted a career 2.55 ERA in 24 starts against the Reds, won 10 consecutive games against them from Aug. 15, 2006, to Sept. 5, 2010. He also drew much ire from the fan base following a melee between the two clubs in 2010. Carpenter was among the most verbal during the on-field scuffle.

"When I signed him with the Cardinals, we were patient with him and loyal," Jocketty said. "He responded with loyalty to the Cardinals. You respect that. We helped him get his career back. He was one of the fiercest competitors I've been with and, since I've been with the Reds, ever opposed. He is a great person and a great teammate."

Reds pitcher Sam LeCure offered his thoughts on Carpenter via his Twitter account, saying: "I'm sure many reds fans won't necessarily agree, but I've always been a big Chris Carpenter fan, I hope he isn't done, guy is a bulldog."

Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash has a relationship with Carpenter that dates back to Carpenter's days in the Blue Jays' system. Ash was in his third season as Toronto's GM when Carpenter made his 1997 Major League debut.

Ash spoke Tuesday about his memories of watching Carpenter learn from Roger Clemens and alongside a young Roy Halladay.

"He was learning and becoming more polished," Ash said. "But he was always a tremendous competitor -- almost more so when he was a younger pitcher."

As for how Carpenter's absence could change the division landscape, Ash referenced the success the Cardinals had in 2012 despite getting very little contribution from Carpenter.

"They're a club that always seems able to overcome those kinds of injuries and adversities," Ash said. "I don't think this year will be any different."

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington and Carpenter both grew up New Hampshire, their hometowns separated by about 60 miles. And though Huntington is six years older than Carpenter, he said the geographical connection always led him to keep a close eye on Carpenter's career.

"I had nothing but respect for him as a hockey and baseball player," Huntington said. "Tough as nails. When healthy, he's been a tremendous asset for that organization. But he's battled injuries on and off for a while. It's tough to indicate how this will affect the Cardinals and the Central. St. Louis has built up a quality stock of arms and, going forward, the Cardinals still have a deep group of arms."

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