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WS2011 Gm7: Carpenter hurls six-plus to earn the win

Even after undergoing "season-ending" surgery on July 19, Chris Carpenter never ruled out pitching for the Cardinals in 2012.

It turns out the right-hander's optimism was justified. Carpenter will make his first start of the season on Friday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The 37-year-old right-hander with 15 career postseason starts joins the Cardinals as they try to hold off the Dodgers and Brewers in the National League Wild Card race.

"Im looking forward to it, no question," Carpenter said. "There's been a lot of hard work put into it. I'm fortunate to get back out there and compete."

Carpenter was shut down in Spring Training with numbness and weakness in his right shoulder, arm and neck. He tried to return to the mound after three months of rest, but that ultimately led to surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome.

"We came out of surgery, like I said all along, trying to make sure we know what my arm would feel like at the end of the season so we could know going into the offseason what to expect out of me," Carpenter said. "But as we got going, we saw that my arm strength was coming back, that everything was coming back and that there was no risk of hurting anything up there. We said, 'Why not try?'"

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Carpenter has earned a chance to rejoin the rotation for the stretch run.

"As we were kind of going through the process and watching him have these live sessions, we were right in the middle of this thing and realizing that bringing somebody like Chris Carpenter into this, in any regard, would be good," Matheny said.

Cubs manager Dale Sveum expects Carpenter to look like the same pitcher he's always been.

"If he's back, I'm sure he's completely healthy and going to compete like he always does, with the same stuff," Sveum said. "He might come out and not throw as many curveballs or something like that. I'm sure they're not throwing him out there in a playoff race unless he's back to his normal self."

The Cubs are playing the spoiler role, although that didn't go too well in their last series, when they were swept by the NL Central-leading Reds.

"We've had a few breakdowns," Sveum said. "We have to swing the bats a lot better than we have in some situations."

Right-hander Chris Volstad will start for the Cubs. Since rejoining the team in early August, Volstad has a 4.76 ERA in nine starts.

Cardinals: Team considers Molina worth of NL MVP
With typically stellar defense and a career year at the plate, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is certainly in the discussion for the NL's Most Valuable Player Award.

Some of Molina's teammates think he deserves the honor.

"He's an MVP in my book, whether he's behind the plate or in the box," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said.

Molina has never finished higher than 21st in voting for the NL MVP Award. He may be a long shot at this point, but the Cardinals are lobbying for their backstop.

"When you start watching every day like we all do, you understand the value he brings," Matheny said. "And when you talk about the most valued, I can't imagine anyone being any more [valuable]."

Cubs: Pitching coach encouraged by young arms
Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio has seen encouraging signs from the team's young starting pitchers filling the roles of departed veterans Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm and injured righty Matt Garza.

The Cubs have used 12 starting pitchers this season.

"Do we miss our core guys? Of course we do," Bosio said. "I think, for the most part, the guys who have filled in have improved. We'll never be satisfied with anything. These guys are getting a crash course in how to be Major League players."

Relievers Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis and Jaye Chapman are also gaining much-needed big league experience in September.

"It seems like everything we're doing as an organization, it's a great learning experience," Bosio said. "But at the same time, we want to be competitive and fight and win. The best way to develop is teach them how to win. Hands full? Yes. Eager guys? Yes. Learning on the job? Yes."

Worth noting
• Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano is batting .100 (2-for-20) against Carpenter since 2009. Both hits were singles.

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