Converted catcher Carpenter thriving for Braves
WASHINGTON -- When Cardinals closer Jason Motte made the conversion from catcher to pitcher while playing with Class A State College in 2006, his catcher was David Carpenter.
Seven years later, the Braves are benefiting from Carpenter's ability to follow Motte's lead by making the successful conversion from catcher to dependable big league reliever.
"When I first made the change, they told me it was going to be a process and you're going to have some bumps in the road," Carpenter said. "You want to speed up the process as much as possible. I have had some good outings and some not-so-good outings in the past. This year, things are starting to come together."
When the Braves claimed Carpenter off waivers from the Red Sox in November, they knew they had gained a strong-armed reliever who had the potential to add depth to their bullpen. They certainly did not envision that he would prove to be as valuable as he has been.
Carpenter has posted a 1.90 ERA and limited opponents to a .203 batting average in 30 appearances. His success has earned him a more enhanced role within the Atlanta bullpen, which entered Monday leading the Majors with a 2.46 ERA.
With a runner on second and none out in the seventh inning of Monday night's 3-2 win over Nationals, Carpenter relieved Mike Minor and escaped the threat unscathed. The 28-year-old right-hander struck out Jayson Werth before retiring Bryce Harper and Ian Desmond to keep the game tied. He also recorded the first two outs of the eighth inning and notched the victory.
"If you would have said coming out of Spring Training that Carpenter would be doing what he's been doing, I would have said, 'This guy hasn't really even pitched,'" Gonzalez said. "He doesn't have a lot of innings pitched in the big leagues, let alone anywhere."
Carpenter made the conversion from catcher to pitcher in 2008 and then made his Major League debut for the Astros in 2011. When he came to Spring Training this year, he worked with pitching coach Roger McDowell to create more depth on his slider.
Carpenter's ability to command his slider more consistently this year is also a product of a conversation he had with Tim Hudson shortly after he was called up to Atlanta in May. Hudson's advice led Carpenter to make an adjustment to where he places his thumb while throwing his slider and splitter.
"If you're working too far underneath the ball with your thumb, it has a tendency to make the ball want to pop out of your hand with the slider," Carpenter said. "With the splitter, it kind of holds it up and doesn't have that good down action. I'm just really, really fortunate to have an older guy like [Hudson] to help out. I thank him for it every day."