Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter withdraws from WBC with back stiffness

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters Saturday that Matt Carpenter’s lower back stiffness has forced him to withdraw from Team USA’s roster for the World Baseball Classic.

Of greater concern to the Cardinals and their fans is Carpenter’s progress going forward in recovering from the ailment that has sidelined him the past three days. Matheny said the veteran is concerned the tightness could aggravate his oblique muscle. He missed a month of the 2016 season because of a strained right oblique.

A hip problem in 2016 — the first year of a three-year, $48 million contract — triggered a back injury and then inflammation in his neck, landing him on the disabled list for a month. Kazmir finished the season 10-6 in 26 starts with a 4.56 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 0.2 WAR.

Asked how often he was at his best last year, Kazmir said: Maybe one start. It’s definitely frustrating. I’m not able to show everyone, show the fans, show my teammates, what I’m capable of doing.

At 33, he is a group of pitchers — along with Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Julio Urias — vying to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda.

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