Munro: Unemployed to big-game starter

Updated: October 14, 2004, 1:05 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa insisted the season is over for Chris Carpenter. The injured pitcher isn't so sure.

Chris Carpenter
Starting Pitcher
St. Louis Cardinals
28 15 5 0 152 3.46

Carpenter has been sidelined with nerve damage to his right biceps since Sept. 18 - the day his team clinched the NL Central. He had an encouraging exam on Tuesday, but was left off the NLCS roster.

La Russa said before Game 1 on Wednesday that the team has given up on him pitching in the postseason.

But the 15-game winner said team doctors told him the nerve was firing again, and Carpenter was able to play catch before the game. He also said he'd play catch again Thursday and held out hope.

"If I'm able to throw, it's a joy and it's a pleasure and a big surprise, I think, for everybody," Carpenter said. "The bottom line is to make sure every day I go out and I continue to progress and make sure everything is good."

Carpenter had become the Cardinals' ace after missing 20 months with a shoulder injury that required two operations. He would have been the Game 1 starter in the division series but Woody Williams has filled that role in both the first and second round.

"He's feeling improved," La Russa said Wednesday. "I just think it's so unrealistic to have him feel good enough to get in shape to pitch."

The World Series opens Oct. 23 and La Russa said that wouldn't be enough time.

"I don't even see how it's possible," La Russa said.

Next Up: Pete Munro finds it pretty amazing that he's about to start Game 2 of the NLCS for Houston. Especially because he was out of work a few months ago.

Munro started the season in Minnesota's minor league system, pitching at Triple-A Rochester. He went 6-3 there in 10 starts, then made a decision in early June.

"I had an out in my contract, if I thought I'd have a better situation somewhere else. I was throwing pretty well with them, I had a good spring training, but I guess the railroad I'm on has taken me somewhere else," he said.

"I took my release. I thought I had a better opportunity somewhere else. I had no job opportunities in line," he said.

Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker called a couple of days later, and Munro joined the team. With injuries to Andy Pettitte and Wade Miller, Houston needed a pitcher and Munro got to start 19 times, going 4-7 with a 5.15 ERA.

Munro has not pitched since Oct. 1, and admitted being a bit nervous going into the start against St. Louis.

"But I'm nervous in any type of game atmosphere," he said. "I believe that's normal."

Matt Morris (15-10) will start for the Cardinals. He pitched Game 3 against Los Angeles in the first round, and manager Tony La Russa decided to move him up in the rotation to let him pitch on regular rest.

Morris was 9-4 with a 3.69 ERA at Busch Stadium but 6-6 with a 6.02 ERA on the road.

"I don't have an explanation," he said. "It was just a couple years ago where I was terrible on the road and OK at home. Last year I was better in the daytime than I was at night. I think it's just the way it works out."

Watch Yourself: The NLCS opener was going directly against Game 2 of the ALCS and, no surprise, most people were set to see the Boston-New York matchup on Fox television. In fact, 77 percent of the country was getting the Red Sox-Yankees game on their primary channel.

"I suspect what's going to happen, there's a lot of people tuned into the Yankees, and they're going to see what scores are coming from this series," Houston manager Phil Garner said. "They're going to hear what's going on and there's going to be a lot of people start watching our series."

Garner can understand the AL attraction.

"I like watching the Yankees and Red Sox play. For goodness sakes, it's a great rivalry," he said.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa wasn't quite so accepting. Asked whether he was a bit miffed that so many fans would get the AL game, he said: "You know the answer to that."

"This is not an exhibition game," he said.

Caminiti Tribute: There was a moment of silence before the NLCS opener for Ken Caminiti, and the Houston Astros plan a tribute to him on Saturday before Game 3.

Caminiti, the 1996 NL MVP, died Sunday at 41 in New York. His agent-lawyer said a heart attack was the cause, and the city medical examiner's office is conducting tests.

Caminiti made his major league debut with Houston in 1987 and had two stints with the Astros over his 15-year career. He struggled with substance abuse and legal troubles, and admitted he used steroids while playing.

Astros stars Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio were among Caminiti's teammates and friends.

The ceremony at Minute Maid Park will feature a video tribute and a moment of silence. The Astros also hope to do something with his No. 11.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press