Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Carp wants change

Chris Carpenter, the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals rotation wants change.
After two seasons and one Cy Young Award as one of the elite starting pitchers in the National League, Carpenter isn't content to just dispose of hitters with his cutter-curve combo. He wants a change. Carpenter said he had a changeup, lost it and plans to spend this spring regaining it.[...]

Carpenter, like most of the pitchers who threw Monday, did not have the sharpest command. It's early, pitching coach Dave Duncan said. But that didn't prevent Carpenter from being miffed about his new old pitch.

"Carp wants to leave spring training with a changeup he has confidence in," Duncan said. "It's a pitch that would be a real valuable pitch for him. He just hasn't had the feel and command of it that he had at one time."

As a younger pitcher in the minors and with Toronto, Carpenter said, his changeup was his second-best pitch, behind his curve. As a Cardinal, Carpenter has leaned on his curve and cut fastball to complement his four-seam fastball. The changeup would give him an offspeed pitch to lefties and supplement his curve. He had been experimenting with grips on his changeup for several seasons before settling on one late last year.
Juan Encarnacion appears to be recovering just fine. In the meantime, the Cardinals appear to have several prime candidates should he be placed on the DL.

Could this year finally be the year that Rick Ankiel is healthy enough to play in the majors?
If Ankiel still was a member of the Cardinals' pitching staff, he would be older than all but four pitchers. But because he is an outfielder, Skip Schumaker and Cody Haerther are the only younger outfielders on the 40-man roster.

"I'm still pretty young. I'm only 27," Ankiel said after Monday's workout. "It seems a lot of guys are making it to the big leagues when they're 26 or 27. I already have 3 1/2 years in. I don't think my window's closing. That's me. Now, it might be closing if I think I'm going to get 16 years in."

With camp's first full-squad workout scheduled this morning, Ankiel is given a strong chance of opening the season at Memphis or, at worst, a brief layover at Class AA Springfield. Offseason surgeries will slow center fielder Jim Edmonds and right fielder Juan Encarnacion until at least mid-March. Despite an outfield crush, Ankiel will be a visible figure.

"He'll get opportunities," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's an exciting talent. We all know that, and we all want to see it."

Ankiel literally has grown up within the only organization he has known since being made the 72nd overall pick of the 1997 draft.

Twice he was the Cardinals' minor league pitcher of the year, and he made his major league debut after only 52 minor league appearances, shortly after his 20th birthday.

He won 11 games at age 21. Before he turned 22, a loss of command made Ankiel a national curiosity.

Before he turned 24, several injuries complicated his return to the mound. A left elbow sprain suffered in camp five years ago cost him the 2002 season. Ligament transplant surgery cost him the second half of 2003.

Remarkably, Ankiel returned to the major leagues in September 2004 after only six starts at three minor league levels that produced a 2-1 record and 0.76 ERA.[...]

Time, which once was his ally, now looms as a challenge. Because Ankiel is out of options, the club retained him this winter by non-tendering him, then re-signing him as a free agent. His chances for a midseason call-up are complicated further by the Cardinals' inability to return him to the minor leagues without first passing him through waivers. In a best-case scenario, the Cardinals hope his health and production at Memphis merit a promotion in September and a spot on the 40-man roster next winter.

No comments: