Looking back, the move has worked out beautifully for David Carpenter.
But when St. Louis Cardinals officials asked Carpenter to move from catcher to pitcher early in the 2008 season, Carpenter was not happy.
“I was really against it and really voiced my opinion that I didn't feel it was the right time,” Carpenter said. “I didn't feel like I had been given the right opportunities to show that I could catch and compete at the big-league level as a catcher.”
But the Cardinals had just signed Yadier Molina to a four-year extension, and Carpenter's path to St. Louis looked blocked.
The Cardinals had success converting catcher Jason Motte into a reliever and thought Carpenter's strong arm made him a candidate to pitch.
When St. Louis decided to make the switch, the organization sent him to its spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., to work on the adjustment.
He worked with Cardinals minor league pitching coach and former big leaguer Derek Lilliquist and pitchers Chris Carpenter, Josh Kinney and Jason Isringhausen, who were in Florida working their way back from injuries.
“It was really a definite turning point in my career having those guys explain to me, ‘Hey, here's why they're doing it, here's why you're going to be successful with it and here are the tools so now it's your job to take everything and go out there on the mound and compete and see where everything goes, ' ” David Carpenter said.
Carpenter put up good numbers in 15 appearances his first season as a pitcher in rookie ball, then struggled a bit with Class A Quad Cities in 2009, with a 4.28 ERA. But last year, again in Class A, Carpenter was solid all season and was traded to the Astros as part of the deal that sent Pedro Feliz to St. Louis.
Making his first Double-A appearance to start this season, Carpenter struggled in the adjustment, going 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA and giving up 4 home runs in 14 innings pitched.
But since being called up from Corpus Christi on May 11, a day after Sergio Escalona was called to Houston, Carpenter has been the RedHawks' top reliever.
Going into the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against Albuquerque, Carpenter had yet to give up a run in 13 appearances and had four saves while allowing 10 hits and walking just 3 in 12 2/3 innings.
The 25-year-old has seemed more relaxed in Triple-A than he did to start the season in Double-A.
“More or less, just realizing it's still 60 feet, 6 inches,” Carpenter said. “Hitters are a little more polished here, but then again, defenses are going to be a little bit better. I've just been reminding myself to slow down and go after each guy.”
Carpenter credited RedHawks pitching coach Burt Hooton and veteran pitchers Nelson Figueroa and Gustavo Chacin with helping him take off once he arrived with the RedHawks.
“Just being able to talk to those guys and ask them on a daily basis how to go about your business, what's the best way to attack this guy and just certain things in the clubhouse like etiquette and stuff like that and being able to pick their brains is very important,” he said.
“They've been doing this for awhile and having the opportunity to do that is only going to give me a chance to get better.”
Just one step away from the majors now, Carpenter is thankful for the position switch.
“Growing up and always talking about wanting to have that opportunity to go and play in the big leagues, for it to be this close and this real, it's a dream come true,” he said.
“I couldn't ask for anything more.”
Changing it up
RedHawks relief pitcher David Carpenter isn't the only player involved in Tuesday's RedHawks doubleheader against Albuquerque who has been involved in a position switch. Here are some others:
Brian Bogusevic, RedHawks: Drafted as a pitcher by the Astros in the first round in 2005, Bogusevic was converted to an outfielder in July 2008 and broke into the major leagues last season.
Brian Esposito, RedHawks: The catcher, currently on the temporary inactive list, spent part of the 2003 season as a relief pitcher for Class A Augusta before converting back to catcher.
Travis Schlichting, Albuquerque: After being released by the Angels after the 2006 season, the then-third baseman converted to pitcher while playing independent league baseball in Kansas City in 2007. He broke into the majors with the Dodgers in 2009.
By Ryan Aber