Chris Carpenter: Long odds for return

Updated: March 18, 2013, 3:52 PM ET
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN.com

JUPITER, Fla. -- Chris Carpenter passed through St. Louis Cardinals camp on Monday five weeks after leaving Jupiter because of physical issues that prevented him from pitching. He sounded more convinced than ever that his major league career is finished.

Carpenter, 37, continues to be bothered by numbness in his right hand and arm and a mysterious weakness in his shoulder. At the moment, he is focused less on a return to baseball than seeking peace of mind that his current issues won't be a lifelong concern.

"I've said before that I'm not going to have surgery anymore,'' Carpenter said. "We'll see what happens. But with the things going on in everyday life, I just don't see it getting better, honestly.

Carpenter I've said before that I'm not going to have surgery anymore. We'll see what happens. But with the things going on in everyday life, I just don't see it getting better, honestly.

-- Chris Carpenter

"We have to make sure that my arm and shoulder are going to be OK to do normal stuff throughout the rest of my life, and I'm not going to have any effects five or six or 10 years down the road. We have to make sure we take care of that first of all.''

When asked whether he wants to continue playing, Carpenter replied, "I do, [but] I don't think I can. That's something that goes through my mind all the time. I've been coming to spring training since I was 18 years old.''

Carpenter, a three-time All-Star and former NL Cy Young Award winner, is a career 144-94 with a 3.76 ERA for Toronto and St. Louis. He has a sterling 10-4 record and 3.00 ERA in postseason play and has been the acknowledged leader of the St. Louis staff for nearly a decade.

But Carpenter threw only 17 innings last year because of arm trouble, and his lengthy injury history finally caught up to him this spring.

Carpenter recently took a vacation to Puerto Rico with his family and opted to stop off in Jupiter on his way back to St. Louis at the urging of his wife, Alyson, and children Sam and Ava. He spent Monday morning fishing with Sam before dropping by Roger Dean Stadium to say hello to his former teammates.

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and manager Mike Matheny have given Carpenter an open invitation to come to spring training and be around the team, but Carpenter continues to struggle emotionally with the suddenness of his departure from the game. He will stick around and watch the Cardinals in Jupiter this week, but has no plans to put on the uniform and take part in workouts.

If Carpenter were to announce his retirement, he would forfeit his $12.5 million base salary in 2013. But the money appeared to be the furthest thing from his mind upon his return to Cardinals' camp.

"I'll never officially retire, I don't think,'' Carpenter said. "I'm going to continue to work hard and try to stay in shape, and see what the doctors have to say to make sure there's nothing serious going on in there that would affect the rest of my life.

"I said it before: I knew at some point in time it would come to an end. I was hoping to be able to make the choice myself.''

Jerry Crasnick | email

ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer

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