Carpenter Dubbed The Real Deal

LaRussa impressed by third base prospect





JUPITER, Fla.—Cardinals manager Tony La Russa conceded that he knew little about third baseman Matt Carpenter entering spring training. And then all he wanted was more of him.

Carpenter, a non-roster invitee to major league camp, became an unexpected sensation. Less than two years removed from his last collegiate at-bat at Texas Christian, Carpenter made a bid for a big league bench spot that lasted until the final week of spring training. By the end, La Russa had a host of adjectives to apply to the 25-year-old infielder: Impressive. Eye-opening. Unfazed. And, of course, on the verge.

"You evaluate what you see compared to whatever standard you use," La Russa explained. "If he makes an impression, you say, 'OK.' At some point you're interested to know if there's any chance this is real. Maybe he's hit .400 every year in spring training. All you've got to know (about Carpenter) is he shows up early, he works, he does everything fundamentally sound."

Carpenter was a 13th-round selection in 2009 as a fifth-year senior out of TCU. He had missed a year of college to recover from Tommy John surgery, and he was unsure what that would do to his draft stock. The Cardinals offered him a pittance for a bonus and a place to play. He took it and surged through three levels in less than three months. In his first professional season, he led the organization with a .419 on-base percentage and won the club's minor league player of the award. In his first major league camp, he nearly got a spot in the majors before taking his first Triple-A at-bat.

Carpenter didn't strike out in his first 22 at-bats, led the team in hitting through two-and-a-half weeks and finished his audition with a .347/.414/.510 line in 51 at-bats. La Russa batted him third and second against big league starters as a test. Though he was assigned to Triple-A Memphis, where he'll be the everyday starter at third, Carpenter did enough to position himself as the obvious replacement if big league starter David Freese misses any time.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Righthander Francisco Samuel will miss the start of the season and could go as many as five weeks without throwing. Samuel pulled the muscle near his right shoulder in an exhibition game against Atlanta in mid-March.

• Low Class A Quad Cities will play a home game at Busch Stadium on May 26 against the Kane County Cougars.