SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It wasn't that long ago that many thought Chris Carpenter wouldn't pitch in another professional game. Now, just months after a news conference that felt like a goodbye, Chris Carpenter allowed three runs -- two earned -- in 2 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Double-A Springfield on Monday night against the Arkansas Travelers, a Los Angeles Angels affiliate.
Although it wasn't the result he was looking for, Carpenter said that not only did he physically feel great, he feels he is improving.
"It starts with trying to command your fastball and command your secondary pitches, which I feel like I did," Carpenter said. "My stuff felt better than it did the last time I threw, [last week in a simulated game]."
The 38-year-old Carpenter, who was sidelined with numbness in his neck and right shoulder, was scheduled to throw 60 pitches and finished with 54, 38 of them strikes. He struck out five, walked two and allowed six hits, including a home run. According to the Hammons Field radar gun, his fastball sat between 89 mph and 92 mph, and his cutter ranged from 86 to 88. He threw his full arsenal of pitches.
Still, after missing the first 150 games of last season and all of 2013 after complications in Spring Training, Carpenter seemed pleased with his status.
Even so, he isn't looking ahead to his big league return. He's just trying to get management's attention.
"I'm not looking forward," he said. "I'm really taking it one [day] at a time, because you don't ever know. I've got a lot to prove to them, myself and my organization. [They need] to believe I can go and get outs."
In front of the fifth-largest Springfield Cardinals crowd ever -- 9,709 fans -- Carpenter was sharp early. He struck out Randal Grichuk, who was taken one pick before Mike Trout in the 2009 Draft, swinging on three pitches, all fastballs or cutters. The next batter, second-base prospect Taylor Lindsey, broke his bat on a 2-0 cutter and blooped a single to short left field. Carpenter responded by striking out Louis Montanez on three pitches, finishing him off with a slider. Futures Game participant C.J. Cron grounded out weakly on a 1-2 curveball to shortstop to end the inning.
Carpenter walked off to a huge ovation.
But the big right-hander's effectiveness waned from there. He pitched a scoreless second inning but stranded runners at first and second after line-drive singles by the Angels' No. 1 prospect, Kaleb Cowart, and designated hitter Ryan Jones. He worked out of the jam by striking out Carlos Ramirez and getting Rolando Gomez to ground out to first base. Both outs came on curveballs.
In the third, Carpenter struck out Grichuk again, but Lindsey launched a spinning cutter to the gap in right-center for a ground-rule double. Then Jimmy Swift, who entered the game for an injured Montanez, swatted another spinning cutter beyond the fans standing on the left-field berm for a no-doubt home run.
Cron popped out on a 1-1 fastball, but that would be the last out Carpenter recorded. His pitch count swelled after Cowart drew an eight-pitch walk, Travis Witherspoon singled on the first pitch and Jones drew a five-pitch walk. Carpenter looked as though he was going to get out of the inning, but Ruben Gotay mishandled a weak ground ball, and his throw to second base wasn't in time. Carpenter wouldn't face another batter.
"I haven't competed in almost a year. Coming in to it, I didn't know what it was like to face hitters. I was happy," Carpenter said. "At some point I'm going to have to go through the lineup a few times, stay out and compete, or it's not worth it.
"[I've come] a long way. I wasn't expecting it, but I'm glad I'm pushing and glad I'm trying."
There has been no announcement about Carpenter's next start, but he expects it to come in five days. Springfield will be at Northwest Arkansas, but both Triple-A Memphis and Low Class A Peoria will be at home.
Allen Vaughan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less