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Exhibitionist: Chris Carpenter needs to employ Brockovich-like tactics to gain attention

Brad Evans
Roto Arcade

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The release of "Duplicity" two weeks ago rekindled an intense debate among the Noise's peers: Is America's Sweetheart, Julia Roberts, hot?

Supporters argue her charisma, sense of humor and girl-next-door spunk rank her high on the list. Those in this group, although they would never admit it, sob uncontrollably every time they watch "Steel Magnolias."

Meanwhile critics (the Noise included) contend her enormous mouth conjures frightful memories of the whale scene in Pinocchio. In the hottest 40-plus actress category, Diane Lane takes the cake in a landslide. Watch "Unfaithful," and you too will spontaneously combust.

The polarizing view generated by Roberts' looks is similar to how fantasy fans have defined Chris Carpenter this spring. Even though he's owned in 95 percent of Yahoo! Plus leagues, only 58 percent of users currently have him in their starting lineup. The forgotten commodity, like Erin Brockovich, needs a pushup bra and flirtatious attitude to attract hesitant owners.

The Noise needs no cleavage to be convinced.

From 2004-2006, the deceptive righty was arguably the NL's craftiest pitcher. His low-90s heater never overpowered opponents, but the placement of his offspeed junk, particularly his curve and change, was devastatingly effective. The statistical fruits yielded were bountiful. During that period, Carpenter posted a heavenly average line - 17 wins, 3.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 7.66 K/9, 1.89 BB/9 and 1.92 GB/FB. Per Baseball Monster, only Johan Santana and Brandon Webb proved more valuable in mixed rotisserie formats.

Then the sinister injury imp reared its ugly head.

Over the next two seasons, Carpenter saw the surgeon's knife more than the mound, logging 366 DL days. The burdensome workload of the previous three seasons shredded his elbow. In July 2007, persistent problems led to Tommy John surgery.

The next summer, just 11 days removed from the one-year anniversary of his previous procedure, he once again toed the rubber. However, a compressed nerve in his throwing arm eventually derailed a comeback.

After undergoing a nerve transposition in November, Carpenter worked diligently this past offseason to get his body prepared for spring training determined to resuscitate his nearly flat-lined career. Unsure whether his once prized starter would ever return to a normal workload, Tony LaRussa briefly considered slotting him into the closer's role. However, that idea was scrapped after the resilient tosser exceeded expectation in January workouts.

This spring, Carpenter has lived by a "pitch-by-pitch" motto.

So far that guarded approach has yielded dazzling results. In 23.2 innings, he's surrendered just four earned runs (1.52 ERA) and notched a 17:6 K:BB split. Pain free and comfortable, he has upped his velocity and confidence to pre-surgery levels. Even in his first rocky Grapefruit outing against Minnesota on March 29, his seven strikeouts in 4.2 innings were encouraging. Based on his eye-opening efforts, the former Cy Young winner will undoubtedly open the season in the Cards rotation. Carpenter has been very pleased with his progress:

"Obviously, it was up and down" Sunday, Carpenter said. "My command wasn't as good as I would have liked. But it was nice ... to work through some situations. As long as I'm healthy and I can get my pitch count up, my stuff was there. Coming into (spring training), not knowing what was going to happen when I got on the mound or what was going to happen when I started stretching my arm. ... I'm not happy with the results today, but I'm happy with what's gone on this spring."

Most Redbirds officials view Carpenter's remarkable resurgence with cautious optimism. But fantasy bargain hunters shouldn't. The 33-year-old is the ultimate low-risk, high-reward gamble. Going right around the same time as Hiroki Kuroda, John Maine and Jeremy Guthrie in Y! mixed league drafts (256.8 ADP), he is someone worth reaching a round or two early for or acquiring on the cheap post-draft. If he doesn't suffer a setback, he could easily finish top 30 or higher among starters. Because of the minimum investment needed, it's senseless not to take the risk.

There's no discussion. Carpenter, unlike Hollywood's perceived "Pretty Woman," is red-hot.

Fearless Forecast: 152 IP, 13 W, 3.24 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 131 K

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Image courtesy of US Presswire

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