Throwing a baseball is an unnatural act. There's no such thing as a safe investment on the mound; we just trick ourselves into thinking that, now and again. When you really get down to it, there's something ghoulish about this make-believe baseball game we play.
The Cardinals shipped Wainwright and his sore right elbow back to St. Louis on Wednesday and the team is expecting the worst. General Manager John Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch that Wainwright likely has a "significant injury" and the early word is "not encouraging." Tommy John surgery is already being whispered, and even if Wainwright doesn't need the TJ procedure, he's expected to be out an extended period of time.
An update is expected at some point later on Wednesday.
Wainwright's first serious problem with the ligament dates back to 2004, so in a sense it's amazing he's held up as well and as long as he has. "There is probably a connection between the ligament being compromised (earlier) to now," Mozeliak concedes. "Obviously, he's pitched very successfully between (2004) and now. I guess at some point, it's just a matter of time."
Barring some miracle on the Wainwright front, the Cardinals will likely be in the market for another starting pitcher. Chris Carpenter(notes), Jaime Garcia(notes) and Jake Westbrook(notes) are the solidified options, with a spotty cast behind them (Kyle Lohse(notes), Ian Snell(notes) and P.J. Walters(notes) don't inspire much confidence, though rookie Lance Lynn might be worth a look). ESPN's Buster Olney suggests Kevin Millwood as a possible fit in St. Louis and I'll be roto-intrigued if that comes to pass, at least in deeper leagues. Millwood pitched a lot better than his surface numbers showed last year, and switching from the AL East to the NL Central is basically dying and going to heaven (not to mention the Dave Duncan effect).
The Cardinals weren't the only NL club to get bad news on Wednesday – the Dodgers are down an arm (and an elbow) as well. Veteran Vicente Padilla(notes) needs surgery on his right elbow, though it won't be a reconstruction and the club thinks he might be able to return sometime in the middle of the season. Padilla's role on the staff was uncertain prior to the injury news; he was considered as a possible rotation filler, long-man, or even a potential long-shot closer. Now, it's all a moot point.
Thursday Update: It's official, Wainwright will have Tommy John surgery. He's out for the year.
Image courtesy Associated Press