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Pittsburgh vs. St. Louis, 24 April 2006

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Perez, Carpenter (MLB.com)

8:10, FSNP, KDKA

Oliver Perez (1-2, 6.75) vs. Chris Carpenter (2-1, 1.67).

Oh ^*&%, not that guy again. I could describe all the games and ways in which Carpenter has hypnotized the Bucs like he's an alien child in Village of the Damned. But instead I think I'll pose a couple of questions: Who is Chris Carpenter, and can the Pirates learn anything from the fact that the Cardinals are paying him peanuts to terrorize NL hitters?

Short answers: a very good pitcher, and possibly. Carpenter spent the beginning of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays. He had a couple of good seasons and had great stuff and lots of potential, but he walked way too many people and gave up too many homers. When Carpenter was in his late 20s, he suffered an injury just as he was about to hit free agency.

The Cardinals grabbed him and signed him to a one-year deal for the league minimum in 2003, knowing he wouldn't play. They signed him for $300,000 again in 2004, but with an option for 2005. He was very good, so they exercised the option and he won the Cy Young award in 2005 while making just $2 million. He wanted to stay in St. Louis, so the Cards then signed him to a two-year deal with an option for a very reasonable price.

Pitchers like Carpenter are rare, not only in the sense that they're extremely good but in the sense that they're extremely hard to get. Of the top pitchers in baseball by ERA last year, only Carpenter and Kevin Millwood were ever eligible for free agency and signed at a price the Pirates would be willing to pay.

Now go up three paragraphs from this one, to the one that begins "Short answers," and replace Carpenter's name with Kip Wells' and "Toronto Blue Jays" with "Pittsburgh Pirates." Obviously, it's far from certain that Wells will turn out to be Carpenter, but if the Pirates can use Wells' injury to get him to sign a cheap extension, I think it would behoove them to do so. I'm not sure Pittsburgh provides an environment that would make him want to stay or the sorts of coaches who could help him get better, but I think it's worth a shot. Carpenter's career path is pretty rare, but if there's any pitcher in baseball who could follow it, it's Wells.

Here's the Box Score. Freddy Sanchez is at second; Nate McLouth is in center.