You can be forgiven for forgetting that Chris Carpenter exists as part of the Red Sox organization. After all, Boston acquired him as part of the compensation for Theo Epstein's departure to the Cubs, and the next time you heard his name, it was due to his needing a bone spur surgically removed from his elbow.
He's been on the 60-day disabled list since, not taking up the 40-man roster spot that he would have been required to otherwise, and it's made him just sort of part of the background, in the same way that John Lackey and Bobby Jenks were. Unlike those two, though, Carpenter is going to be back in 2012, so it's time to remember who is starting right about now.
Carpenter has already begun his rehab assignment to work back from surgery, pitching for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, stopping over in the Sally with Greenville, moving up on up to Double-A Portland from there, and finally, as of Monday, is now with Triple-A Pawtucket, one stop from returning to the majors. Carpenter doesn't have to go to Boston, by any means -- the Red Sox have a loaded bullpen, and Carpenter can stick in Pawtucket along with the other relievers with options attached to them, as part of the post-2012 pen. He does, however, need to be added back to the 40-man roster when his rehab assignment ends.
That role, as reliever, is the perfect one for Carpenter, if you believe what prospect gurus like Kevin Goldstein do about the tall righty:
Carpenter has a classic power frame and the repertoire to match, beginning with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 97, a velocity he was parked at when pitching in shorter stints. He's refined his power breaking ball into a true slider that flashes plus, and has some feel for a changeup.
It's been just seven innings, but Carpenter has mostly looked good. He's struck out eight batters, walked another three, and allowed three runs in those frames. The 26-year-old right-hander will need more time than that to see where he stands, but this is as good a start as you can hope for, following elbow surgery.