Carpenter: 10 years in MLB 'hard to fathom'

Infielder reaches milestone with one team, joining exclusive club

September 7th, 2021

ST. LOUIS -- Asked about the accomplishment of reaching 10 years of service time, which he did during Tuesday’s tilt against the Dodgers, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt rattled off a list of odds to put it in perspective. Few young kids who pick up a baseball play in high school, fewer play in college, even fewer make it to the Minor Leagues and a miniscule portion spend a day in the Majors, let alone 10 years.

But Carpenter did all of that as a 13th-round Draft pick, as a fifth-year senior from TCU and as a bona fide third baseman who had to switch around positions as he rose through the Cardinals’ ranks.

“I can tell you those odds that I just mentioned were much steeper for him than a guy with more of an investment from the organization that gets more opportunities,” Shildt said. “When you're a high-round guy, you get every opportunity to fail. When you're a late-round guy, a fifth-year senior, you have zero margin for failure. He basically willed his way with his talent, his dedication to his craft, to come up here and be a really good player for this organization for the last 10 years and help us win a lot of baseball games.”

Carpenter reached his 10-year milestone all with one organization, becoming one of 17 active players to do so. He joins Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina as the Cardinals’ three players to have done the same; only the Giants boast as many players with 10 years of service time with one organization.

Paul Goldschmidt also reached 10 years of service time this season, though he has split his time between the D-backs and Cards.

“Pretty crazy, pretty surreal to think about,” Carpenter said. “Pretty special day and just hard to even put into words, really.”

On his milestone day, Carpenter was the starting first baseman for St. Louis against the Dodgers, spelling Goldschmidt for a scheduled day off. Carpenter did the same for Nolan Arenado on Monday, marking his first consecutive starts since July 27-28.

That’s a reality Carpenter has had to adjust to this season, learning to be a plug-and-play starter and learning to come off the bench like he hasn’t in years prior. He’s had his moments, such as a game-winning home run against the Phillies in April, but more valuable has been his attitude and veteran leadership for the younger crop of players.

From an organizational perspective, the Cardinals are all the more proud to celebrate Carpenter, given those two aspects.

“He's been a tremendous teammate, too, because he came up a third baseman, went to second, played first, has accepted a lesser role,” Shildt said. “My respect for Matt Carpenter -- it’s a heck of an accomplishment, but it's also a compliment for a guy that I respect highly as a strong man of faith and a tremendous teammate, father and husband. I don't have enough superlatives to talk about the person that Matt Carpenter is.”

Carpenter’s future is uncertain. He has a vesting option for 2022 based on plate appearances that he’s not expected to reach, which could number his days as a Cardinal. He’s given fans highlights to cherish -- making a cameo on the 2011 World Series team, providing a legendary day at Wrigley Field in 2018 and representing the club with three All-Star appearances.

All came with an attitude to admire and a legacy to celebrate, from a super senior at TCU’s Amon G. Carter Stadium to Busch Stadium.

“To even make it here and now, to be here 10 years later, it's hard to fathom, to be honest,” Carpenter said.

Thursday’s starter picture becoming clearer

The Cardinals are listing their starter for Thursday’s series opener as TBA, but Shildt said that Kwang Hyun Kim -- initially listed as the starter -- would be “a good teammate” and be available out of the bullpen on Tuesday. That’d likely eradicate his chances to start.

What’s more, Jake Woodford took batting practice with the crop of starting pitchers and threw a side session in the Busch Stadium bullpen -- both glaring signs that he is primed to start in the finale.

“We’re at a fluid time of the year,” Shildt said.