One of the great speculative themes you find in any spring training comes when we ask "can he come back?" about any given player rehabbing from injury. The answer for Chris Carpenter is "yes," because he's done this before. But since the question for Carpenter is "can he come back again?" the answer is less clear. Carpenter is such a unique case with a unique combination of circumstances that he demands a nuanced look at not only how his problems mesh together, but how his strengths might help him get back on the mound.
Once upon a time Carpenter was one of the Blue Jays' best young pitchers, a tall New Englander teaming up with Roger Clemens and Pat Hentgen to form the front men in a solid rotation. His career never reached the heights or the longevity of those former teammates, however. By 2001, while some were looking for a new Jays mini-dynasty led by a rotation of Carpenter and Roy Halladay, Carpenter's arm was in tatters. He went from Opening Day starter to non-tendered in the space of a single season thanks to a torn labrum. At the time, that injury was seen as a professional death sentence for pitchers.