Carpenter in good spirits, throws live BP
Ace yet to start spring game, but making presence felt in camp
JUPITER, Fla. -- Chris Carpenter has not played in a Grapefruit League game yet, but that does not mean he has not been heavily involved this spring.
Carpenter, who has been dealing with a bulging disc in his neck, has been active in the dugout all spring. Just because he cannot play does not mean that Carpenter has lost his competitive fire.
"He's usually barking at people," manager Mike Matheny said. "Last game, I tried to convince him to drink decaf on the bench, because he's barking at the umpire and everybody else."
Carpenter's competitive nature and focus are things that Matheny values from the veteran pitcher. The first-year manager also feels the righty's competitiveness gives the Cardinals' dugout a positive vibe.
"He's just intense," Matheny said. "It's good to have him out there. Guys see that he's into this game. He's got no chance of being in there and he's out there watching every pitch and paying attention. I think that becomes infectious. Instead of a bunch of guys just sitting around on their hands, you've got Lance [Berkman] saying something funny and Carp yelling at everybody. There's life, and life is a good thing on the bench."
The veteran right-hander has also taken some time to help some of the younger pitchers in the organization. Carpenter worked with talented right-hander Trevor Rosenthal early Sunday morning and came away impressed with what the 21-year-old could do.
"It was a lot of fun," Carpenter said. "He's got a chance to be really good. He's a very good kid and he's got great stuff. He's got a bright future ahead of him."
After helping one of the Cardinals' talented young pitchers, Carpenter focused on his own future. The St. Louis ace threw to live hitters on Sunday, just two days after throwing his first bullpen session since March 3.
"I was all right," Carpenter said. "It's a good step to get back out there and throw a little bit. Now we move on to the next step. If I wake up good enough tomorrow, then I'm going to go out and do that again maybe sometime soon."
Carpenter threw 40 pitches as he faced Allen Craig, Adron Chambers and Bryan Anderson on Field 6 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex.
Matheny and pitching coach Derek Lilliquist watched Carpenter attentively, while fellow pitchers Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse and infielder Skip Schumaker showed their support from behind the batting cage.
The right-hander's command wasn't where he would have liked it, but he did throw some pitches with good movement that drew praise from those watching.
"It could be better," Carpenter said of his command. "In Spring Training, I could go out and get work in with that. No question."
While Carpenter had made steady progress since hurting his neck on March 3, he does not know when he will be able to make a start in Grapefruit League play.
"We'll answer that question tomorrow or the next day," Carpenter said. "I'm just happy with what happened today. I'll come in tomorrow, evaluate what's going on, play some catch and see what my next step is."
Carpenter is also unsure of how many starts he would need to get ready for the regular season. The 36-year-old is focused on the present and not worried about something that is two weeks away.
"I'm not concerned about that," Carpenter said. "I'm going to go out and put my work in the next time. I'm going to take it one day at a time. I'm not going to look ahead."
Many anticipated Carpenter would take the ball Opening Night on April 4 when the Cardinals kick off their season in Miami against the Marlins. But Matheny implied that the chances of Carpenter making that start appear to be slim.
"Haven't ruled anything out, but it would be pushing it," Matheny said.
Carpenter would love to start on Opening Day, but he is not going to force anything on himself, Matheny or the Cardinals' organization.
"That's not my call," Carpenter said. "That's their call. Depends on how I'm feeling and how I progress."
David Villavicencio is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.