MIAMI — Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter woke up Wednesday morning feeling strong enough to play catch two days earlier than planned. He hoped to return to St. Louis Thursday night with something just as valuable as his health.
He wants answers on how to maintain it.
Carpenter traveled to Dallas Thursday to have his right shoulder and its nerve trouble examined by Dr. Gregory Pearl, a specialist in thoracic outlet syndrome. The condition comes from pressure or choking of the nerves as they pass from the shoulder to the arm. Symptoms include pain in the neck and shoulder, lack of grip strength, weakness and numbness — all sensations Carpenter had during spring training and at times since.
“We’ll see what happens,” Carpenter said. “As of right now, if I feel the way I am, we’re going to get an opinion and see what he thinks and keep going. ... I still have a little ways to go. (From) the way I felt two days, three days ago compared to now it’s definitely at a place where it feels good, much different.”
Carpenter was unable to throw against batters as scheduled Monday, a delay he called “a setback” on his return to the rotation. The issue was a recurrence of weakness in his right shoulder, the result of what Carpenter has called a frustrating nerve condition that sidelined him in spring training. The Cardinals’ team physician, Dr. George Paletta, suggested that Carpenter visit Pearl, who consulted with Paletta back in 2008 as Carpenter dealt with a similar issue.
Pearl has been published several times on the issues athletes have with thoracic outlet syndrome. Carpenter said this will be the first time Pearl examines him in person.
The pitcher’s goal is to find a way to correct his issue or manage it so that he does not have trouble maintaining strength from pitching session to pitching session. The strength in his shoulder was enough Wednesday that hours before the game Carpenter played long toss and did some flat-ground work with a low-intensity windup. If he is permitted to continue on the current track — and his shoulder cooperates — he expects to get results from his exam and throw a light bullpen session today. He hopes to resume his throwing program against hitters soon after.
He conceded that he was crestfallen Monday.
“Monday was tough mentally and physically because I didn’t know what was going to happen next,” Carpenter said. “After a while you get tired of having to deal with that, to continue to mentally battle to where you want to get excited about where you’re at and then you get beat down. At some point in time you need to continue to progress forward. The muscles in my shoulders were not working properly, and it’s frustrating to everyone trying to figure out why. If we knew, we’d fix it. It’s weird. It’s frustrating.”
Carpenter hopes Dr. Pearl can offer some guidance. It’s not something that Carpenter can imagine dealing with the rest of his career. Asked if not knowing how he would recover from game to game, start to start, might be his new reality, Carpenter was blunt.
“I hope not,” he said. “They’d have to keep me on the first floor of the hotel on the road just in case because I’m not going to deal with that well.”
Cardinals first baseman Lance Berkman, who has been sidelined for more than a month by knee surgery, is expected to move his rehab to St. Louis today to be with the team during the home stand. The team expects to have a clearer view of his timetable with him around the clubhouse. ... Carlos Beltran, who is tied for the league lead with 20 homers, said he has not been approached about participating in the Home Run Derby. He is open to what would be his first derby invite, he said. ... Manager Mike Matheny said this weekend’s forecast for 100-degree temperatures at Busch Stadium has been a factor in getting players some rest. He gave Yadier Molina and Allen Craig, who is still bothered by a wrist injury sustained at the start of this road trip, the day off Wednesday to give them a back-to-back break with Thursday’s off day. “Stockpiling days off is a good thing,” Matheny said. ... Marlins lefty Mark Buehrle, a St. Charles native, continues to be out of synch with his team’s series in St. Louis. Buehrle has only appeared in an All-Star Game in St. Louis, his turn never coming up the few times the White Sox visited. He’ll start the game before Miami arrives next week. “I’ve got to think it will happen one of these years,” said Buehrle. “I look up at (the Cardinals’) lineup and all the .300 averages in it and maybe I’m OK going without the start this time.”
Contact Goold at email@example.com or (314) 340-8285.