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Is Matsuzaka or Carpenter a Bigger Concern?

This is a debate that we could have all day, but it's one that -- in light of yesterday's injury news -- needs to be fleshed out a little bit. Both Daisuke Matsuzaka and Chris Carpenter are likely headed to the 15-day disabled list after disastrous starts on Tuesday. Yet the reason for their departure from Boston and St. Louis, respectively, are starkly different.

According to the Red Sox, Matsuzaka is fighting through a nebulous, psuedo-injury they're calling "arm fatigue". The idea is that he's just pitched too much, which, for a guy who was known to throw 200-pitch practice sessions before arriving on this side of the Pacific, seems almost far fetched.

What it has done is stoke yet another round of questions about the World Baseball Classic. If you didn't see him pitch in the World Baseball Classic, suffice it to say that Matsuzaka was more than effective, he was downright dominant. By the end of the tournament he was 3-0 (for the second consecutive WBC) and was named the MVP of the event. And he actually looked that good, too.

Suddenly, two games into the season, the Red Sox feel that he needs to not pitch for an extended period just to get his arm back to full strength? It's a curious assertion, at best.

What seems more likely is that an initial report of the team's diagnosis -- that Matsuzaka was suffering from shoulder fatigue -- actually holds some validity. Shutting Matsuzaka down for a month or more to encourage his shoulder to respond is a completely defensible position.Trying to obfuscate that condition into a broader "arm trouble" report to take a cue from the NFL Patriots is not.

With Carpenter, there's absolutely no debate about what ails him. The bigger question is when something won't be a bother.

After missing most of two straight seasons, Carpenter's performance in spring training and his first start of the season -- a gem of a win over Pittsburgh -- was refreshing. He looked eerily like the pitcher who put St. Louis on his back en route to a World Series title in 2006, to the point that some analysts were saying the Cardinals made for an intriguing dark horse in the NL pennant race.

Perhaps they should have known better. Just an inning into only his second start of the season, Carpenter left with a strained rib cage. There's no word on how long Carpenter will be out, but anyone who followed Josh Beckett's progress in 2008 knows that rib cage and oblique injuries can linger long after a player tries to make his return. They're the niggling set backs that just keep haunting players, even while pitchers won't want to admit the injury is still there.

Of course, the good news for St. Louis is that Carpenter's injury has nothing to do with his arm. That may be little comfort to Cardinals fans if he misses two months .... or, potentially worse, tries to return before he's fully healthy.

Naturally, all of this begets an interesting question: Which injury should be more concerning to Red Sox and Cardinals fans? And is it worse for the Red Sox if Matsuzaka doesn't have something significant wrong (i.e., that his troubles are all in his head)? There's no clear answer, so what do people think?

By Cameron Smith  |  April 16, 2009; 11:44 AM ET
Categories:  Cardinals , Red Sox  
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Carpenter is the bigger injury because of the Boston depth. Boston still has Clay Bucholtz and John Smoltz to use at some point. Meanwhile, losing Carpenter changes the Cardinals from darkhorse NL pennant winner to an Albert Pujols injury away from looking like the Nationals.

Posted by: ilikeike | April 16, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

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