Carter Seeking to Rise Again

As part of the Dodger attempt to get better results from its bullpen, Lance Carter has been sent back to Las Vegas to regroup. It's hardly the first time for such an occurrence in a career that seems like a raft that has risen and fallen on decidedly choppy seas.

Originally signed by Kansas City in 1994, Carter got off to a good start only to be sidelined by Tommy John surgery in 1996. Switched from a starting role to the bullpen when he came back, he thrived and made it up in 1999. However, the next season he was back in the minors, not pitching at all well. Bothered by further arm trouble, he underwent the knife for a second time, again the Tommy John treatment on his pitching elbow.

He was traded to Tampa Bay in 2002, making it up to the D-Rays by the end of the season. Then came 2003, the most splendid of his career, in which he saved 26 games, the eighth-best total ever by a rookie in big league history, making it to the All-Star game along the way.

But the Rays traded for Danys Baez over the winter and handed the closer's job to him. Well, okay, Carter became an effective set-up man in 2003. However, once more a plunge into the depths followed. He lost his touch completely last year and was sent back to the minors where he failed to regain it. So, the Rays weren't too unhappy to toss him into the deal that brought Baez to the Dodgers.

Carter never has been the poster boy for relievers who are expected to come in breathing fire like Puff the Magic Dragon, hurling heat past the opposition. His fast ball is average at best, he tosses in a couple of different breaking pitches (a curve and slider) and eschews the strikeout. Nor, does he get all that many ground-outs for he tends to be a fly ball pitcher.

What he does is pitch dispassionately, staying in control at all times. He can work often and when he does, he's not prone to making mistakes but, rather, lures batters into swinging at pitches that are never quite good enough to drive too far. As such, he would seem more valuable as a set-up man, one who can come in and apply damage control for two or three innings, if need be.

That's when he's on his game, which he really wasn't for the Dodgers. Ironically, he may be called upon to serve as a closer for Vegas because Jonathan Broxton is now in L.A. At least, that's what he did in his first appearance for the 51's, doing it well, more than incidentally.

But then he's always been something of a paradox. For instance, he's a righthander whose usually tougher on left-handed hitters. Now, at age 31, he's back down in a trough but, don't be surprised to see him rise to the crest again. He 's made a habit of that.