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Carpenter adjusts throwing motion for 3B

Cards' defense could hinge on veteran's move to left side
@LangoschMLB
March 15, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- For all the attention paid to every throw Marcell Ozuna makes this spring, his isn’t the only arm that has gone through a recent transformation. As part of his move back to third base, Matt Carpenter dedicated himself to a revised throwing program this winter that began

JUPITER, Fla. -- For all the attention paid to every throw Marcell Ozuna makes this spring, his isn’t the only arm that has gone through a recent transformation.

As part of his move back to third base, Matt Carpenter dedicated himself to a revised throwing program this winter that began in October and ended with his shoulder feeling stronger than it’s been in years. Along the way -- and with feedback from infield coach Jose Oquendo -- Carpenter also reworked the mechanics of his throws.

“There’s no reservation now,” Carpenter said. “I developed the throwing motion I had the last couple seasons because I was guarding some pain. Now, I can air it out and not have to worry about it. I’m throwing as well as I’ve thrown maybe in my career.”

The relief has been building since 2017, a season in which Carpenter was hampered by bursitis in his throwing shoulder. The discomfort peaked late that summer and required Carpenter to receive a cortisone shot so he could finish out the season.

He regained some of that strength last season and more over the winter. The payoff has been evident this spring in the trajectory of his throws across the diamond and, even, the reactions to them.

“It’s going to allow him to make even more plays,” manager Mike Shildt said. “We can think about positioning him a little bit different to start. He plays a respectable third base. I think he’s in a good spot.”

Carpenter’s career hasn’t been marked by much defensive stability, though this year sets up to be the exception. After starting a combined 146 games at third base from 2016-18, Carpenter anticipates drawing at least that many this season alone. With Paul Goldschmidt at first and Kolten Wong back at second, opportunities for Carpenter on the right side of the diamond should be limited.

Carpenter has never completely shaken questions about his defensive abilities at third, though the metrics were kind to him last season. His plus-6 Defensive Runs Saved would have ranked fourth-best among National League third basemen had he accumulated enough innings to qualify. If anything, perhaps having some permanency of position will also help.

“I want to prove to myself and everybody else that I can be a great third baseman,” Carpenter said. “My mentality is to go out and not only be one of the best in our own division, but also in the game.”

How the transition back to third goes for Carpenter will help define the ceiling of the Cardinals’ entire infield defense. There may not be a more defensively adept right-side of the infield than the one the Cardinals boast in Goldschmidt and Wong. And at short, Paul DeJong profiled as an above-average defender in his sophomore season in '18.

Carpenter compared the potential to the infield unit he was a part of in '13 when the Cardinals set a franchise record for fielding percentage (.988). Carpenter handled second base that season, with Allen Craig, David Freese and Pete Kozma settling in as starters around him.

“The thing that was so good about that team wasn’t necessarily the talent,” Carpenter said. “What that team had was really good mental toughness. I think this team has the ability to succeed them on both levels. It was almost like we peaked that year. We couldn’t get any better. This defense can be way better than that one.”

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.