Carpenter Aiming to Become More Economical

Chris Carpenter's strikeouts this season at Class AA Tennessee are a bit down from years past but that isn't a chief concern for the right-hander, who is striving to go deeper into games and move further up the organizational ladder.

Through 20 starts, the 24-year-old Carpenter is 7-5 with a 3.21 ERA in his first full season at Double-A. He has 82 strikeouts to 42 walks in 101 innings. He is coming off his best outing of the season Monday against the Montgomery Biscuits, in which he went a season-high seven innings and allowed just one earned run on five hits. caught up with Carpenter after the start.

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Q: Was the first couple of months of the season more about building up your arm strength as opposed to working on anything in particular? Because you really started hitting your stride in June.

A: I didn't throw very much in spring training, so the first month or so of the season was about getting my arm in shape. The first month was kind of like my spring training. I just hopped into the season and my production has been better of late. The first couple of months were just about building things up instead of working on stuff.

Q: Remind us what was the reason for the lack of innings in the spring and for you starting the season on the DL in Arizona?

A: (I)t was some shoulder tightness about two weeks into spring training. They just shut me down after that and pushed me back about three weeks because of rehab. I had to rebuild my arm strength back up. When I got healthy, I set out for Tennessee.

Q: What are you working on with your pitches right now?

A: I'm not really working on anything new. I changed a little on my changeup and I'm just trying to be more comfortable with my pitches and being able to throw them in any count, mix them up, work them in and out. If I'm really working on anything right now, it's just my confidence with my changeup and being able to throw it with a purpose instead of just throwing it up there. I actually set pitches up and use it to my advantage.

Q: Are you hoping the changeup will join your curveball as an "out" pitch?

A: I think my curveball is still my out pitch and my second best pitch next to my fastball, but I think that in order to move up, I'm going to need that changeup and I'm going to need to show hitters something else besides that fastball and curveball if I'm going to be a starter at the next level. It's definitely something right now that I need to work on and I'm getting more confident with it. It's getting better every time out.

Q: This late in the season, how important is it to always finish strong?

A: It's very important. Everyone always says if you're going to start off slow, you need to finish strong and I kind of started off slow. I want to finish the year strong. (Monday against Montgomery) I had a good start and I want to build on that. Hopefully the next one will be the same way.

Q: For some reason, you've fared better pitching away from home. Are you just not as comfortable pitching at Smokies Park?

A: I don't know. I feel comfortable pitching there, but this year and last year I had a little more success on the road. It's not anything comfort wise. I feel comfortable there and love it there. There's just something about being on the road where I feel more comfortable pitching. Hopefully it's just something where when we go home next, I'll change.

Q: Your strikeouts are kind of down from where they were last season, but is that maybe about learning how to get guys out without striking them out?

A: Yeah, they are down a little bit if you look at my numbers, but it's one of those things where I want to start going deeper into games and start getting guys out earlier in the count and not always try to strike everybody out. If I want to go six or seven innings and I'm throwing a lot of pitches trying to strike everybody out, it's not going to get me very deep into games. So I'm working on trying to get early outs and early contact and a lot of groundballs. It has cut down on my strikeouts a little bit, but it has also gotten me more innings and deeper into games.

Q: It took awhile for you to regain the confidence in your breaking pitches after you underwent Tommy John surgery in college. Why do you feel so confident throwing them now?

A: I feel like I'm 100 percent and that I've been 100 percent for a while now. I haven't had any injury issues with my elbow or with soreness in my elbow for a long time, knock on wood.

Q: You've said before that the mental aspect of the game is a strong point for you. Why is that, and do you think it's more important to you than maybe the average pitcher?

A: Mentally, you've got to be tough. It's a long year. You've got to go out and every single time out you're expected to produce and keep your team in the game. Mentally, it takes a toll on you when you're going out there and you're expected to get people out for five or six innings. The hitters are good in this league and you've just got to go out and be mentally tough. If something doesn't go your way, you can't get down on yourself or it will effect you. If something goes bad or something goes good, you have to pitch the same way.

Q: Recently we've seen Casey Coleman get called up to Chicago and on your team, Austin Bibens-Dirkx was promoted to Iowa last month. Is Chris Carpenter going to be one of the next guys to get promoted: to Triple-A or even Chicago?

A: To tell you the truth, I don't really look too much into that. I want to move up, but it's one of those things where I'll just congratulate those guys. It's awesome for them, and if my time comes then I'll be more than happy to go.

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