Two days after beginning to shake the Chris Capuano Curse, the Cubs enabled Chris Sampson's latest impersonation of Cy Young.

The 28-year-old Sampson has now started four Major League games, two of them--both victories--against the Cubs. In 12 innings pitched against the Men In Blue, he's allowed six hits and 0 runs. His lifetime ERA is now 1.71; minus the work against the Cubs, it's 2.40 (still pretty sparkling).

Yeah, the season is only eight games old, but it's galling to lose the first two games to the Astros, especially after the way Houston struggled against the Cardinals...after the Cardinals looked like a Double-A team against the mighty Mets.

I think this is the way it's going to be in the NL Central this year: a bunch of roughly even teams taking turns pummeling each other, with everyone in the crowd--except the Pirates--alternately sitting atop the dung heap or falling back into the pack. At the end of it all, a single extended winning streak might be all that separates the division champ from the rest of the field.

Then there's the injury factor, and on this front, the Cardinals could be in line to grab the first headline.

On Tuesday, Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus reported that St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter "appears to have bone spurs in his pitching elbow, a recurrence that was last dealt with at the end of the 1999 season."

Carroll continues:

The Cardinals announced the injury as "arthritis and impingement," but as expected, sources tell me that the olecranon impingement is caused by bone chips. Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch gets similar information, and adds in that Carpenter had a lubricant (such as Supartz) injected into his elbow...I can't think of another pitcher who's had this type of treatment. Carpenter missed four weeks with elbow problems in June 1999 before shutting it down in September for surgery, giving us some indication on how this might go. I'd expect that Carpenter will be given a couple weeks to see if the lubricant, anti-inflammatories, and rest will help, but that surgery is the next option.

This could be huge, because, as we all know too well, Carpenter is good. Very good.

On the other hand, he's no Chris Sampson.


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