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Adam Wainwright’s Elbow Injury: What it Means for Cardinals and the National League Central Race in 2011 (Updated)

As if the St. Louis Cardinals could use more disappointing news.

Just days after the Cards were unable to come to terms with Albert Pujols on a contract extension, news broke that starting pitcher Adam Wainwright – who finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting last season – has a significant elbow injury.

Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Dispatch reported that Wainwright’s exam showed “enough damage to a ligament near his right elbow to suggest surgery”.

Obviously, the news is devastating for the Cardinals, the team’s fans and even more heartbreaking for Wainwright.

adam-wainwright-st-louis-cardinals

St. Louis SP Adam Wainwright has an elbow injury that may require Tommy John surgery

The 29-year-old starting pitcher will seek a second opinion, and in days, the Cardinals will know if they will be without one of their aces, but the news looks grim.

What It Means for the Cardinals

If the end result is Tommy John surgery – which is the likely case – then St. Louis will be without Wainwright for the entire 2011 season, and potentially a significant portion of the 2012 season.

Obviously, replacing Wainwright is nearly impossible, and the numbers tell the story.  Over the last two seasons in the St. Louis rotation, Wainwright has eclipsed 230 innings, 200 strikeouts and combined for 39 victories.  In 2010 alone, he had five complete games and two shutouts.

With the Cardinals already facing a bit of a distraction with the Pujols contract looming until after the end of the season, now St. Louis faces the possibility of losing half of its one-two punch.

Since options are limited internally, it would appear that if St. Louis loses Wainwright, they would look to free agency or trade to pick up another option for the rotation.  The best short-term option could be Kevin Millwood, a veteran presence that can eat innings and act as a bandage to the rotation.  Certainly, Millwood is no Wainwright, but his 4-16 record from 2010 should be overlooked, as he received little run support in Baltimore throughout most of the first half.

What It Means for the NL Central

zack-greinke

Milwaukee is going to love Greinke more than it loves beer. OK, maybe not.

With the Cardinals likely missing one of its aces due to injury, the doorway opens for other teams to excel in the National League Central division.  The reigning champion Reds should be in the mix once again, but the injury benefits one team the most – the Milwaukee Brewers.

Without Wainwright, the Cardinals may be hard pressed to finish third in the division, and the Brewers – who traded for Zack Greinke during the offseason – now arguably have the best one-two rotation punch in the division.

But even with the Reds being the defending division champs, the Brewers should now be considered the favorites – what with the aforementioned rotation featuring Greinke, plus the likes of Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum.  Milwaukee also has a solid punch in its lineup, featuring Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks.

The Milwaukee Brewers – if healthy throughout the season – will emerge.

UPDATE (11:00 am – February 24, 2011)

Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com has updates on the Wainwright situation, and it’s not good news for the Cardinals.  He also provided some insider information on potential rotation replacement plans – all via Twitter:

Ken_Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal

Mozeliak just confirmed: Wainwright needs Tommy John surgery. #cardinals #mlb

Ken_Rosenthal Ken Rosenthal

La Russa also said there are 6 or 7 internal candidates for Wainwright’s spot. #cardinals still not planning to go outside. #mlb
Best wishes to Adam Wainwright on a speedy recovery.
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By | 2017-08-25T17:34:03+00:00 February 23rd, 2011|Kevin Paul, MLB, Writers|3 Comments

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3 Comments

  1. JW February 25, 2011 at 9:45 AM

    The NL Central, as succinctly as I can…

    Forget about the Astros and Pirates, they’re non-factors.

    The Cubs will do one of two things – stumble out of the gate or implode in July. Pick one.

    Don’t look now, St. Louis, but you are just the Cubs in red uniforms.

    Milwaukee will be interesting until Prince Fielder is traded, then they will fold faster than Superman on laundry day.

    Reds win by default.

  2. admin February 24, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    AERO–

    What’s up my friend?

    I know with your Tampa ties that you like Garza, and I do think the kid is a workhorse. I don’t really trust the rest of that rotation though… Dempster’s ERA has gone up the last 3 years and Zambrano is a head case. Marmol is wild as the closer and all the bats are aging and have been question marks the last few years. But that team does have talent, so who knows. We should put a friendly wager on it, between the Cubbies and the Brew Crew. Maybe one on the Rays and O’s, too.

    Hope all is well…

  3. aero February 24, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    I like the Cubs this year. The addition of Matt Garza will bolster their rotation and I believe Carlos Pena will have a much better season in the friendly confines.

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