St. Louis Cardinals ace Adam Wainright needs Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and will miss the entire season.
John Mozeliak, Cardinals general manager, confirmed the news on Thursday from spring training camp. He said he found out about the severity of the injury on Wednesday night after Wainright sought a second opinion from Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles, according to ESPN. A surgery date has not yet been set.
“It’s not a real surprise to us but certainly a disappointment,” Mozeliak said. “As we look to the future now we certainly believe we still have a strong starting rotation. Now we’re going to have to look to try to fill it in terms of a fifth spot.”
The 29-year-old won 20 games last year and was runner-up for the NL Cy Young Award. He began to feel arm stiffness after Monday’s throwing session. Towards the end of last season, he had also experienced soreness and didn’t pitch in September. He had experienced minor arm issues in 1998 and 2004.
So what happens to St. Louis while he’s recovering from surgery? Well, the magic of pitching coach Dave Duncan will be challenged again it seems, as the team has been left with a big gaping hole.
“That’s a big guy to miss,” said fellow team-mate Kyle Lohse. “We still got to go out there and play. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We still have to go out there and do our jobs.”
The Wainwright-Chris Carpenter combination led a Cardinals rotation that had the lowest ERA in the National League last season – 3.50, USA Today reports. Remove Wainwright’s statistics (20-11, 2.42) and the other Cardinals starters had a 3.82 ERA. That would have finished sixth in the league, but still ahead of the rest of the NL Central.
No matter where the Cardinals turn for another starter (manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday that it will be within the Cardinals camp, but that may change) they’re not likely to find a 2.42-ERA replacement. Just matching that 3.82 from everyone else might be enough to keep the team in contention.
“You follow camps and see if something develops where it’s a good fit,” La Russa said. “But right now it’s not a good fit because we’re going to cover it from within. We’ll pay attention though, that’s part of what you do in spring training. We have scouts all over and we’ll watch box scores.”
The manager has six or seven pitchers in camp who will have the opportunity to join the rotation.
“Guys are assigned at least a couple appearances over the first eight to 10 games and then a lot of those decisions make themselves,” La Russa said.
“You’re losing an ace,” Cardinals general manager Mozeliak said. “It’s not something you can replace overnight. I would also say we have four quality pitchers. It’s not exactly like we have no bullets left.”
In the meantime, everyone will be hoping for Wainwright’s speedy recovery from Tommy John surgery, which reconstructs the ulnar collateral ligament, replacing it with a tendon from elsewhere in the body and takes months to heal. It is named after the pitcher, who in 1974 became the first professional sportsman to successfully have had the operation.
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