Cardinals' Chris Carpenter to undergo season-ending surgery

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 | 6:44 p.m. CDT
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter throws during the first inning of Game 5 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a nerve issue in his shoulder that has sidelined him since spring training.

The 37-year-old Carpenter wants to continue pitching. He's been told the surgery to relieve compressed nerves in the shoulder could allow him to resume his career, although there are no guarantees. The procedure involves removing the first rib.

Carpenter said Tuesday that he's dealt with the injury since 2008. He doesn't believe his heavy workload last year for the World Series champions plays a significant role.

"We've tried since spring training to get this going and every time I try to come back unfortunately it just doesn't allow me to do that," Carpenter said Tuesday before the Cardinals played the Rockies. "To be honest with you, I wish I thought about this surgery a while back.

"If we did it in March or April, I'd be close to coming back now."

Until recently, the Cardinals had been optimistic Carpenter would respond to therapy and be able to pitch after the All-Star break. Carpenter was optimistic after meeting a specialist in Dallas last week, but strength did not return to the shoulder after a bullpen session on Friday.

Another session was cancelled on Monday while the pitcher and team pondered the future. Now, the Cardinals are optimistic Carpenter will be ready for spring training.

Carpenter, the 2005 National League Cy Young winner, is in the first year of a two-year, $21 million contract.

"I'm past the 'woe is me part, the here we go again,'"Carpenter said. "I'm excited about ... the outcome I might get. We can get this taken care of and hopefully I can get back out there and be better than I have been in the past."

General manager John Mozeliak said Tuesday that recovery time is three to six months for what he described as a "relatively simple" operation. The surgery will be performed on July 19 in Dallas, fitting into the surgeon's schedule since Carpenter won't be pitching for a while.

"Given the sort of trajectory he's been on, this seemed to make the most sense," Mozeliak said. "He does want to pitch again, and this will give him the best opportunity."

The news provides clarity for the franchise a month ahead of the trade deadline for a team missing two members of the rotation. Left-hander Jaime Garcia has missed a month with a shoulder strain and on Tuesday resumed throwing, and the team projects a return in early to mid-August.

Mozeliak said he'd be open to picking up a starting pitcher, for short or long term.

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