The St. Louis Cardinals experienced a major scare Wednesday, as starting pitcher Adam Wainwright returned to St. Louis to have his elbow examined. The righthander, who threw seven shutout innings on Tuesday night, underwent an MRI on his elbow which revealed no damage to his ligaments, but rather soreness in the joint. He received an anti-inflammatory injection which the Cards hope will eliminate his soreness.
The 32-year-old Wainwright seems destined to be an All-Star for the third time, as he’s having arguably the best season of his career thus far. He currently leads the National League in both wins and innings pitched, and he has a minuscule 2.15 ERA and 0.927 WHIP. His loss would be devastating to the Cardinals, who don’t have any proven starting pitchers remaining in the system with the loss of starters Joe Kelly and Tyler Lyons to injuries. Besides having to live without the anchor of their rotation and one of the best pitchers in the league, it’d be very risky for the Cards to have to rely on a rookie such as Tim Cooney or Angel Castro while Kelly and Lyons continue to recover.
While the concern is alleviated by the fact that the MRI came back well, the Cardinals have plenty of instances of these kinds of situations in recent years going awry, notably in recent years with righty Chris Carpenter and lefthanders Jaime Garcia and Mark Mulder. It’s worth noting, however, that the Cardinals changed medical staffs prior to this season, so hopefully the initial prognosis is more accurate than it was with those pitchers.
The Cardinals will be operating through this situation with the assumption that Wainwright can pull through this without a whimper, but for now it may be safest to let him take it easy, instead of relying on him to go eight or nine innings through every one of his starts.