MILWAUKEE -- Whether or not the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter has thrown his final pitch, his first Major League general manager will remember a "tremendous competitor."
"I'm sure it killed him just to say he couldn't pitch," said Brewers assistant GM Gord Ash, who was Blue Jays GM when Carpenter broke into the big leagues in 1997.
On Tuesday, the Cardinals announced that, indeed, Carpenter had told them he couldn't pitch. He has suffered a recurrence of the neck/shoulder injury that necessitated surgery at the start of 2012 and forced Carpenter to miss most of the season. Cardinals GM John Mozeliak said Carpenter is unlikely to pitch in 2013, and that he will make a decision about retirement at a later date.
"Do I envision Carp returning? I would say it's very unlikely, so no," Mozeliak said.
That news, of course, made it quickly to Miller Park, where Ash and the Brewers are preparing to compete with the Cardinals and the rest of the National League Central. Ash downplayed the effect Carpenter's injury could have on the race.
"I don't think you can look at it that way," Ash said. "Look at what the Cardinals did last year [after losing Carpenter for much of the season]. They're a club that always seems able to overcome those kind of injuries and adversities. I don't think this year will be any different."
Ash and Carpenter were on the same team back in 1997, when Ash was in his third season as Blue Jays GM and Carpenter made his big league debut. Ash watched the early stages of Carpenter's slow development into a reliable pitcher. He saw Carpenter latch onto Roger Clemens in 1997 and '98, and later learn alongside fellow work-in-progress Roy Halladay.
Carpenter turned a corner in 2001, Ash's final season in Toronto, when he was 11-11 with a 4.09 ERA in a career-high 34 starts.
"He was learning, and becoming more polished," Ash said. "But he was always a tremendous competitor. Almost more so when he was a younger pitcher."
Against the Brewers, Carpenter was 6-6 with a 4.58 ERA in 15 starts, including some notable run-ins with outfielder Nyjer Morgan in 2011. Carpenter also faced -- and beat -- the Brewers in Game 3 of that year's National League Championship Series, making St. Louis' four-run first inning hold up in a 4-3 Cardinals victory.