February 24, 2011 Leave a comment
The team announced today that Wainwright would require season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow (ESPN News Link). Typically, the procedure requires a 12-15 month rehabilitation, rendering Wainwright unavailable until Opening Day 2012 at the earliest.
The runner-up in the Cy Young balloting last season, Wainwright posted a 20-11 record with a 2.42 ERA and 200+ strikeouts. He was slotted to be the 1-2 punch in the Cardinals rotation along with former Cy Young award winner Chris Carpenter.
Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak has stated the team will begin its search to fill out the rotation internally, giving pitchers Kyle McClellan, Lance Lynn, P.J. Walters, and Ian Snell the opportunity to win the competition. However, there are options available on the free agent market, with the likes of veteran Kevin Millwood yet to sign a contract with a team.
It will be impossible for the Cardinals to expect a Wainwright-like performance from whoever fills out that fifth spot in the rotation. But, this isn’t a death sentence for their season, either. They still have one of the strongest line-ups in the National League, anchored by Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Also, their ace, Chris Carpenter, is a former Cy Young award winner. He is one of the best pitchers in the National League when he is on his game, and he can easily lead this rotation in the absence of Wainwright. Also, the team has two veterans in Jake Westbrook and Kyle Lohse who will embrace this situation and pick up some slack on their end.
The key, however, may be second-year starter Jaime Garcia. He finished third in the Rookie of the Year voting, won 13 games and had an earned run average of 2.70. How he performs this season will be the difference between the Cardinals competing at the top end of the National League Central and the team fading towards the back of the pack.