COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals organization has become increasingly optimistic over the possibility of Chris Carpenter returning to the team as a reliever this season. Despite my lack of interest in the story, which you can read in an earlier article right here on Yahoo!, it does bring to light the thought that Carpenter would need a roster spot to consume.
Should Carpenter's rehab continue on the current path, he will become a part of the bullpen very soon. The team would then have to send one of the arms currently in the bullpen, which seems to be improving greatly, back down to the minors. The candidates for that demotion are examined below:
Many would feel that Maness is the odds-on favorite to return to the minor leagues in this situation. The young pitcher has not done anything to hurt his stock during his stay in St. Louis, however, and might force the team to look at other options. He has shown an ability to pitch to contact and get outs when needed, a valuable piece in the bullpen. Still, he may find himself back in Memphis simply due to the logistics of the roster.
Salas was one of the early season struggling relievers that had everyone in a panic, despite a very strong spring that put him on the roster in the first place. He has settled in recently and continues to be productive, keeping runners off the base paths and holding leads. Salas will probably outlast some of the young arms that are currently on the roster.
It is hard to speak about "young arms" and not talk about Carlos Martinez. The young fireballer has seen a few speed bumps in recent outings, but is still electric and full of confidence. The current thought around Martinez is that the team probably would not have started his arbitration clock if they did not think he would stick around for the majority of the season. That being said, much like Maness, a chance to return to the minors while riding the confidence boost of not falling apart at the Major League level is intriguing and could help the young man establish a long, successful career.
Kelly's adjustment to consistent bullpen work has been one of the most significant struggles for any player wearing the birds-on-the-bat this season. Kelly could be returned to Memphis to get a fresh start and clean slate. He is young and still on the verge or realizing who he will be in his career with the Cardinals, a move to Memphis would not likely be damaging, if he receives it well.
Also of note would be the thought that Maness, Martinez or Kelly could be returned to Memphis to be stretched out in a starter role once again. If the feeling in St. Louis is that Carpenter could return to the team for the entirety of the remainder of the season, the person sent back to Memphis, and the role that person takes may tell fans more about the future plans of the team than anything else.
No, I am still not ready to embrace the Chris Carpenter return. But if he can impact this team, I will come around quickly.
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