Chris Carpenter shouldn't be here.

He was supposed to miss the entire season after having surgery to repair nagging nerve damage in his arm and neck. Doctors told him he'd be ready by spring training next year, no sooner.

But the 37-year-old right-hander has built his career on unexpected comebacks, and this year is no different.

So instead of watching the playoffs while rehabbing at home, the former Blue Jay will make his 16th career post-season start Wednesday for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of their NL division series against the Washington Nationals.

"This is what I live for," the 6-foot-6, 230-pound New Hampshire native said Tuesday in Washington. "It's the day before and I got that feeling in my stomach already. I couldn't wait to get here and talk to you guys, do my thing."

If only the Jays knew how remarkably resilient Carpenter would be in his career — that he would be named comeback player of the year in 2004 and 2009, after twice being written off as damaged goods — they might never have given up on a 27-year-old with an unco-operative shoulder.

But just as he bucked expectations this year, Carpenter's career with the Jays also didn't go as planned, ending a decade ago with disappointment and frustration on both sides.

A first-round pick in 1993, he was released outright in 2002 after six injury-riddled and inconsistent seasons.