The St. Louis Cardinals are set to welcome back one of their key contributors from the disabled list, but are not sure about the availability of another.
While the Cardinals decide if outfielder Rick Ankiel(notes) is healthy enough to return, Chris Carpenter(notes) takes the mound for the first time in more than a month Wednesday night against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium.
A day after snapping a three-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory in the series opener, St. Louis’ injury-plagued roster is set to receive a much-needed boost. Carpenter (1-0, 0.00 ERA) was off to a strong start when he strained his left rib cage muscle while batting in his second start at Arizona on April 14, and was placed on the DL a day later.
The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner has allowed an unearned run and five hits while striking out nine and walking two in 10 innings this season. He yielded one hit over seven innings in a 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh on April 9.
“Chris is really important to us,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, “but you don’t want to have our club and him believe he’s the total answer because that’s unfair.”
The Cardinals will certainly welcome Carpenter after their starters posted a 6.27 ERA in the previous 14 games prior to Joel Pineiro’s(notes) three-hitter Tuesday. The win was just the third in the last 10 games for the Cardinals (22-17).
Elbow and shoulder problems have also contributed to Carpenter making six starts since going 15-8 with a 3.09 ERA in 2006.
“I feel good and my throws have been good,” he said. “So I’m excited.”
The right-hander is 7-3 with a 3.08 ERA in 14 career starts against Chicago (21-16). Carpenter is 2-1 with a 1.91 ERA in five home starts versus the Cubs.
But La Russa isn’t sure if Ankiel will be activated Wednesday as originally planned. Ankiel has been out since he bruised his right shoulder crashing headfirst into the outfield wall against Philadelphia on May 4.
“We’re going to take a look at him, work him out and see how he feels,” La Russa said of Ankiel, who is batting .247 with two homers and 11 RBIs. “We’ll make a judgment based on what we see.”
Rookie Colby Rasmus(notes), who’s seen time more playing time in Ankiel’s absence, hit his second two-run homer in as many games Tuesday for St. Louis, which has scored just nine runs in its last four contests.
“It was a pitchers’ day,” Lee told the Cubs’ official Web site. “Hopefully, it’s a hitters’ day (Wednesday).”
Though Lee is batting .229, he’s 6 for 11 in his last three games, and hitting .316 (12 for 38) with three RBIs versus Carpenter.
The right-hander has no record and a 5.25 ERA in two starts versus the Cardinals this season. He is 4-4 with a 4.94 ERA in 13 career starts against St. Louis.