Carpenter brings family vacation to Cards camp
Injured right-hander plans to watch from stands, keeping attention on teammates
JUPITER, Fla. -- Prodded by his wife, Alyson, and their children, Sam and Ava, Chris Carpenter added an unexpected stop to the family's vacation itinerary, which had them in Puerto Rico last week and headed to New Hampshire next week for the Easter holiday.
This week, though, the family will spend time in Jupiter, a place that had been their spring home for the past 10 years. Carpenter confirmed his visit with general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny before arriving, but otherwise surprised nearly everyone else. When he announced last month that he had to halt his throwing program due to weakness and numbness in his arm, he also stated his intention to stay away from camp this spring.
"I didn't want it to be a big production," Carpenter said Monday. "I just wanted to come and say hello and watch a few games, take [son] Sam to a couple games and enjoy Spring Training like we always have, except I'm not going to be on the field. They understand how hard it is when you want to be out there and you want to play, you want to pitch, but unfortunately can't."
Carpenter, 37, continues to deal with the side effects of thoracic outlet syndrome, which cost him most of the 2012 season and prompted surgery. Though Carpenter hasn't thrown since Feb. 1, he said he still periodically feels weakness in his shoulder and numbness on his right side while doing everyday activities.
It happens sometimes while he is driving a car. It occurred during a walk on a Puerto Rican beach last week.
The fact that these symptoms are surfacing away from a baseball field seemingly eliminates any possibility that Carpenter will ever return to a mound.
"I do, but I don't think I can," said Carpenter, asked if he'd like to pitch again. "That's something that goes through my mind all the time. I was down in Puerto Rico for the first spring break, really, ever. I have been coming to Spring Training since I was 18 years old. I was working out and the [Cardinals Spring Training] game was on ESPN … and I start thinking about wanting to pitch and see what can happen. But I know the ultimate result won't be good."
Carpenter's priority now is finding a treatment or therapy option that can ensure his long-term quality of life does not suffer. He was examined by Dr. George Paletta in February and underwent tests to ensure discoloration in his hand wasn't due to a blood clot. He has spoken with Dr. Gregory Pearl, who performed surgery on Carpenter last July, over the phone.
Carpenter plans to have additional tests conducted once he wraps up this three-week vacation.
"We're going to make sure that my arm and my shoulder are going to be OK to do normal stuff throughout the rest of my life, that it's not going to have any effect five, six, 10 years down the road," Carpenter said. "I want to make sure that we take care of that first."
Carpenter said he does not expect to get in uniform while with the team this week. Rather, he and his family will watch the games from the stands and spend the week busy with other activities. He took his son fishing in the area on Monday morning.
"I've been pounding on him since we first heard the news to get down here and just enjoy it," Matheny said. "I'd love to get him in uniform, but that's a push right now. Just seeing him down here, having him here is a good thing. He just needs to know that we truly love having him around."
"There was a huge smile on my face this morning when I saw him," added Jake Westbrook, who started Monday's 3-2 loss to the Mets. "It's great to see him here and to continue to interact. Hopefully it will be a boost for us."
Carpenter did not commit to how much he'll be around the team during the season, but did add that he intends to be at the ballpark for the April 8 home opener against the Reds. Carpenter also wouldn't comment on the possibility of shifting into a coaching role with the organization beyond saying that it is something he'd like to eventually do.
The Cardinals would welcome Carpenter's involvement this season, but are not pushing the topic of conversation on the right-hander right now.
"I told him we'll take him as much as we can get him," Matheny said. "We have to understand that it's all on his timing, and when it's right, he's got an opportunity to be around here and help us. But also, it's not a guilt thing that he needs to be here. Even when you don't see him, he's helping. That's just who he is. This is his team."
Carpenter is slated to earn $12.5 million in 2013, which is the final year of his two-year contract. Assuming that his career is over, he'll finish with the second-best winning percentage of any Cardinals pitcher with a minimum of 100 starts. He went 95-44 with a 3.07 ERA in nine seasons with St. Louis.
"I knew at some point it would come to an end," Carpenter said. "I had hoped I would make the choice myself, but you knew it was going to happen. I've been coming to Spring Training since I was 18 years old. This is the first year that I wasn't able to play. It's definitely tough, but it's good to see these guys."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.