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Cardinals spring training continues

Cardinals pitching instructor Chris Carpenter stands behind catchers to watch pitchers throw during spring training on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JUPITER, Fla. • The Cardinals’ Mike Maddux is among the most respected pitching coaches in major league baseball, and former Cardinal Chris Carpenter was one of its most respected pitchers until he retired some six years ago. Both have been very visible during the Cardinals’ first three days of spring training, and Carpenter’s visibility will continue for several days of each month during the season as he visits the Cardinals’ major-league team, wherever it may be.

Maddux said he would not feel any intrusion whenever Carpenter, a special assistant, showed up, and, in fact would welcome those appearances.

“I learn something from him every day,” Maddux said Friday. “I can only imagine what other people are going to learn.

“Having Chris around is a blessing,” said Maddux. “He provides another set of eyes and ears and his attention to detail ... he doesn’t miss much.

“He looks at it through a little different lens because he more recently played, and everybody respects the heck out of him.”

Asked if he thought Carpenter’s trademark intensity would rub off on the Cardinals’ pitchers, Maddux laughed and said, “I don’t know how it can’t. He’s a great addition to this staff when he’s around.”

Last year, Carpenter, a Cardinals Hall of Famer who was 95-44 when he played for them, worked mostly with the Cardinals’ minor league pitchers, with an occasional visit to the big-league club. A resident of New Hampshire, he has two teenage children, one of them just starting to drive, and he has a joint custody arrangement with his first wife.

“I made a commitment to be there for them,” said Carpenter.

Thus, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak created the chance for Carpenter to concentrate solely on the major-league team, a rare position in recent Cardinals history.

“I just wanted to find a role that fit him best and try to mitigate some of his travel,” said Mozeliak.

“When he’s focused on the Cardinals, he is with the Cardinals. And when he has to be a dad at home, he can do that.”

“I was missing events at home that I shouldn’t be missing,” said the 43-year-old Carpenter.

“I had to make a decision, one way or the other. I’m just thankful that they offered me the same sort of role, but only at the big-league level. So I’ll travel once a month instead of last year, where I was traveling twice a month to minor-league clubs and the big-league club.

“This schedule works for me.”

Having seen many of the Cardinals’ young pitchers both in the minors and majors, Carpenter says the depth of the rotation, spilling over into the bullpen, may be unparalleled in his time with the club.

The Cardinals’ prospective rotation consists of Carlos Martinez, Miles Mikolas, Jack Flaherty, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright. A second rotation could comprise Alex Reyes, Dakota Hudson, John Gant, Austin Gomber and Daniel Ponce de Leon.

“We’ve got arms all over the place,” Carpenter said.

The Cardinals, in camp, have nine pitchers who started at least one game for the club in 2018. Then there is another, Hudson, who was baseball’s top starter in Class AA and Class AAA in 2016 and 2017, respectively, but who relieved in all 26 of his appearances with the Cardinals last year.

“Hudson’s a starter, for me,” said Carpenter.

“It’s a good problem to have. You hope nobody gets hurt or gets set back, but it happens every year, where you need that depth.

“If there aren’t spots (available), they’ll go back to Triple-A and we’ll use them as we need them. The main thing is that the young guys who are excited and want to be here understand the process. They have to see the depth we have.

“We have a lot of guys who have really good arms and who really want to learn. How can you not enjoy being around that?

“It’s not you like you have a bunch of donkeys that you don’t even want to talk to and they’re here just to walk around with a uniform on. It’s different when there are a bunch of guys investing in you and wanting to talk to you, asking questions and who want to learn and listen ... that makes it worthwhile.”

Carpenter’s title is a bit uncertain but, manager Mike Shildt said, “He’s a special assistant to everyone. He’s got a wide berth, which he should.”

When Carpenter’s son and daughter are older, perhaps Carpenter might want to get more involved in coaching.

“I think he’d be good at whatever he wanted to do,” said Maddux. “He’s a very talented person.”


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