ATLANTA -- Losing Chris Carpenter for 161 games is bad enough. Knowing your ace will miss a considerable chunk of 2008 is far worse.
The St. Louis right-hander, the 2005 NL Cy Young winner, will undergo elbow ligament replacement surgery next week.
The procedure, commonly known as Tommy John surgery, means that Carpenter can't anchor a pitching staff that helped the Cardinals win the 2006 World Series.
"He's as good as anybody out there," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after a 10-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday night. "We're going to miss him. Everybody knows what he means to us."
The Cardinals have used nine different starting pitchers this season, but nobody on the roster compares to Carpenter.
In five postseason starts last year, Carpenter went 3-1, helping the Cardinals win the World Series with eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory over Detroit in Game 3. He is 51-18 with a 3.10 ERA in 93 starts for St. Louis over the last three seasons.
"We're more concerned for him than for us," La Russa said. "He's a stallion. He's a prince. It eats his heart out when he has to miss one game. He'll have to fight a lonely battle."
Carpenter hasn't pitched since allowing five runs in six innings of a season-opening loss to the New York Mets. After going on the disabled list April 2, Carpenter had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow on May 9.
He developed swelling and stiffness after a rehab start for Class A Palm Beach on July 8.
"When they removed three spurs, we thought that would be the end of it," La Russa said. "It wasn't until the first part of this week that I heard 'ligament' for the first time."
The Cardinals did not announce what day Carpenter will undergo surgery.
Before signing as a free agent with St. Louis in December 2002, Carpenter went 49-50 with a 4.83 ERA in parts of six seasons for Toronto. He missed part of 2002 and all of '03 after having arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder.
Carpenter had bursitis in his shoulder last seasons but went 11-6 with a 3.27 ERA in 22 starts after returning from the DL on June 6.
St. Louis starters are 25-44 through the first 92 games.