Carpenter's Career Off to Good Start

PEORIA -- The stadium announcer calls your name. The entrance music booms. Digging your back foot into the batter's box, you happen to look up and catch a glimpse of the opposing pitcher peering in at you from underneath a blue cap sharing an equally intimidating grimace. The scene is replayed every time Peoria Chiefs pitcher Chris Carpenter is on the mound.

"He's an assassin," Chiefs manager Marty Pevey said. "He wants to get you before you get him."

"He's a competitor," echoed pitching coach Rich Bombard. "He's got great makeup. He likes to be out there."

Carpenter has taken the mound 14 times this season, striking out 58 batters and issuing 32 walks through 69.1 innings pitched. Even though his ERA sits at 2.60, Carpenter's record is only 4-3. His manager knows he has pitched well and cites a lack of run support as the reason behind the record.

"His record could be a heck of a lot better than it is. His numbers are good, but his record is not as good. He could have a really fine record if we had given him any run support whatsoever," Pevey said. "There were games where we didn't score runs for six innings."

One of the pitches Carpenter has relied on to be so successful this season is his fastball, which ranges from the low to mid 90's.

"I've always tried to pitch off of my fastball," said Carpenter, the Cubs' third-round pick in the 2008 draft from Kent State. "Whenever I am in a jam or need a strike, my fastball is working."

Pevey knows Carpenter's fastball is his best pitch, but also that he can still work on his pitch repertoire to better his career.

"He's got to command his fastball a little better and not start with so many 1-0, 2-0 counts. He's got to get an off-speed pitch he can throw at any time for a strike," Pevey stated. "He's got to start trusting in his changeup a little more."

Another pitch Pevey would like Carpenter to develop is a two-seam fastball. He feels Carpenter is somewhat reluctant to work on it.

"He won't do it until he starts struggling a little bit," Pevey said.

Overall, Bombard said he is pleased with the pitch set Carpenter is currently working with as well as the right-hander's work ethic.

"He's been real consistent for us. He's got the makings right now of possibly three major league pitches (fastball, curveball, change-up)," Bombard said. "I think one of the most important things with him is he works as hard the four days off between starts as he does on the mound."

That work ethic derives from Tommy John surgery in 2005 while pitching as a freshman at Kent State, and a second operation in 2007 to clean out scar tissue. From the operations, Carpenter learned the importance of working as hard as possible to keep his arm strong and healthy.

"I feel like I'm stronger after those (surgeries). I think the rehab had a lot to do with it," Carpenter said. "I came back and worked really hard to get my arm in shape. I came back and I feel like I got a lot stronger."

Carpenter's strongest starts this season have come at home in the friendly confines of O'Brien Field, where he owns a 4-1 record and a 1.38 ERA. In June alone, Carpenter owns a perfect 3-0 record and a low 1.13 ERA.

He added to his 2009 resume by tossing a three-hit, complete-game shutout on June 15 against the Quad City River Bandits. For his performance this season, Carpenter was rewarded a spot on the Midwest League All-Star Game, set for Tuesday night at Clinton, Iowa.

"It's a great honor," Carpenter said. "I'm surrounded by a lot of great players and it's nice to have five of my teammates on there, too, so it's a pretty big accomplishment for us. I'm really excited."

Watching him pitch, Pevey compares Carpenter to a major league player he once managed all the way through the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

"I see him as a better pitcher than Dave Bush, and I had Dave all the way through Triple A," Pevey said. "I see him slotting in there better than Bush. He has the same mind set, except he is a bigger boy (6'4" 215 lbs) and a better arm."

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